The decision comes after a new study reviewed hundreds of scientific papers on pain reception among the invertebrate groups.
Octopuses are one of several marine invertebrates to be recognized as sentient by changes to a new animal welfare bill which said that lobsters and crabs shouldn’t be boiled alive.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill was first proposed in May and is currently under review. The proposed law originally included all vertebrates, or animals with a backbone, but no invertebrates. However, on Nov. 19, the U.K. government announced that two invertebrate groups — cephalopod mollusks (octopuses, squids and cuttlefish) and decapod crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimp and crayfish) — will now be included on the list of sentient beings, which means their welfare will have to be considered when future government decisions are made about them..
The bill, when it becomes law, will establish an animal sentience committee made up of experts from within the field. It is currently under debate in the United Kingdom.
The UK government has declared octopuses, crabs and lobsters as ‘sentient beings’, meaning they have some amount of consciousness and are capable of experiencing pain or suffering. This comes after an independent review commissioned by the UK government concluded that there is strong scientific evidence decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs are sentient.
The review has recommended protection for these species under new animal welfare laws.
The report has been prepared by experts at the London School of Economics (LSE). They studied more than 300 species for the study before concluding that cephalopods (such as octopuses) and decapods (such as crabs and lobsters) should be treated as sentient beings, according to CNN.
The report further said that lobsters and crabs shouldn’t be boiled alive. It also suggested best practices for their transport, stunning and slaughter.
Vertebrates – animals with a backbone – are already classified as sentient under the new legislation.
“The Animal Welfare Sentience Bill provides a crucial assurance that animal wellbeing is rightly considered when developing new laws. The science is now clear that decapods and cephalopods can feel pain and therefore it is only right they are covered by this vital piece of legislation,” animal welfare minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said in a statement.