Monday, November 23, 2009

Killing a lobster with kindness?

I'm intrigued by a report of a new device to painlessly kill lobsters and other shellfish prior to cooking them.

The way that lobsters are cooked causes concern to many chefs and animal-lovers alike - not to mention the unfortunate crustacean itself.

Traditionally, it is dropped alive into a pan of boiling water, where it emits a shrieking noise as it takes several minutes to die.

But all that could be about to change with a more humane device which kills the shellfish almost instantly - and, so its inventor claims, makes it taste better.

Entrepreneur Simon Buckhaven, 50, has created a device named the CrustaStun which uses an electric current to stun and painlessly kill shellfish such as lobsters, crabs and langoustines.

The machine can knock a large crustacean unconscious in less than 0.3 seconds and kill it in five to ten. Crabs take four to five minutes to die in boiling water, while lobsters take three minutes.

Some believe the noise made by lobsters in the pan is evidence of them experiencing pain, although others insist it is caused by the release of gases under the shell. The lobster's tail also flaps around as it tries to escape and it dies only when its core temperature reaches 34C.

While crabs remain silent when boiled alive, they shed their claws and legs as a defence mechanism and, because of this, are often put in fresh water and drowned for eight hours as an alternative.

. . .

The CrustaStun comprises a stainless- steel box roughly the size of a microwave containing a tray with a wet sponge and an electrode.

The crustacean is placed in the box and when the lid is closed the wet sponge conducts the current which electrocutes it.

The RSPCA and Peta are backing the device and there are hints of a possible EU directive recommending its use.

There's more at the link.

I've cooked many a fresh-caught lobster (or kreef, as we called them) along the beaches of South Africa, in the time-honored way: dropping them into a barrel of boiling sea-water. (Add a dash of seaweed as garnish, if so desired). I'd always been told that this killed them virtually instantaneously . . . but that's not so, according to the article above. If that's right, and they suffer for some minutes before dying, then I'm all in favor of this new invention - even if that does (shudder!) mean that for once, I'm on the same side as PETA. I don't want any animal to suffer, even if it's one I'm about to masticate and digest!

Come to think of it, perhaps the inventors should market their product to the US criminal justice system. The electric chair didn't work so well, but with advances in technology, perhaps their idea might find a wider application!



Owen said...

My dad from Maine, carried a small pocket knife, Knife between the eyes, then lobster into the pot. I bet it's alot cheaper then that thing.

W.R. said...

Hmmmm. Wonder if it would work on politicians?

Noons said...

Over here what we do is stick them in the freezer for an hour or so. They go numb in the cold in a few seconds, after an hour it's straight in the boil and not a sound or movement.

LabRat said...

Stick it in the freezer, pith it with a knife. No electricity required.

Anonymous said...

Peter, remember that PETA is the acronym for "People Eating Tasty Animals".