The Nicholas Seafoods company of Sydney, Australia, is in hot water with an animal rights group for causing "immense pain" to one of its catches.
Australia's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) reportedly observed workers from Nicholas butchering lobsters with a band saw, before properly stunning or killing the crustaceans, reports The Guardian.
Investigators also say they watched as living lobsters’ tails were separated from their bodies, causing “immense pain” to the animals, the RSPCA claims.
The animal rights group, however, isn’t completely against butchering and selling seafood. They simply want it to be done in accordance with New South Wales’ anti-cruelty laws.
In 1997, crustaceans were granted protection under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act after researchers and politicians argued that the creatures are capable of feeling pain. After protection was granted, New South Wales implemented guidelines that recommended they be “immersed in a salt water/ice slurry for a minimum of 20 minutes” before they’re butchered. Alternatively, they can be sliced from top to bottom, which reportedly dulls their nerve centers.
The laws only apply in places where seafood is prepared for sale, or to any seafood intended for such sale.
Nicholas Seafoods’ violations were observed at the Sydney Fish Market, reports The Guardian. The charges against the fish purveyor led to a conviction — the company pleaded guilty — and they’ve agreed to pay a $1,500 fine.
“When you look at the guidelines, it’s pretty black and white and none of it was followed in this instance,” said RSPCA inspector Tyson Hohlein. “It’s quite uncommon for us to get calls about lobsters.
“I would say most restaurants are aware of these guidelines and hopefully adhere to them.”
Hohlein added that the RSPCA isn’t currently planning to investigate other seafood mongers, but he’s glad that others might now be “more aware of the most humane way to euthanize crustaceans."
Though animal rights groups have argued that fish and shellfish are capable of feeling pain, in the U.S., neither sea creature is currently covered under the federal Animal Welfare Act, and they are mostly exempt from state animal cruelty laws.
“A majority of state laws protect all animals, but there are typically exemptions for hunting and fishing activities,” Ann Chynoweth, vice president of the Humane Society of the United States’s animal cruelty campaign, told the Washington Post. “Laws regarding slaughter do not cover fish — or chickens.”
But cows and pigs are covered.