Eating Live Lobster Is Cruelty Just for Kicks


lobsterYears ago when I was just starting out as a restaurant critic, I was invited to a Japanese restaurant that specialized in ikizukuri -- raw fish served alive.

Dinner began with us choosing a live fish -- well, two live fish and a live lobster, actually -- from an aquarium. Then, the sushi chef filleted and gutted the sea creatures without killing them. He cut the raw flesh into pieces and served it on a plate alongside their assembled bodies and heads -- still twitching, still quivering, still alive.

It was, the chef told us, the freshest fish that would ever cross our lips. He was correct, of course. In fact, it was one of the best things I've ever eaten.

But I haven't been able to forgive myself since.

I was reminded of my momentous live animal feast after watching the video below showing three food journalists partaking in a three-course live lobster menu at a restaurant in New York City.

The trio is skeptical of the live crustacean on their table at first. But any reservations they may have disappear as soon as they tuck into the food. By the end of the meal, they're downright elated to be consuming a live animal. And that's because -- at least in my experience -- it's exhilarating to bravely overcome the squeamishness of eating something so exotic and try something you've never had before.

But is it cruel? Is it unethical?

As many would argue: Yes. The tradition has been banned in many countries. For years PETA has been after U.S. restaurants -- particularly in New York -- for serving live lobster, fish, and octopus, arguing that the sea creatures feel pain and that the practice violates anti-cruelty laws.

And, even some experts agree. Here's Professor Andrew Linzey, who is director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and author of the book Why Animal Suffering Matters, explaining his stance on eating live animals:

... there are strong grounds for supposing that all mammals and birds ... experience pain and mental suffering, and there is now increasing scientific evidence that sea creatures, notably [squid, octopus, shrimp, and lobster] can as well -- at least to some degree.

My take? All I have to go on is the tremendous guilt I felt after my meal of live fish and the fact that years later I'm remembering their quivering mouths more than the fresh taste of their flesh. It may seem silly to preach about consuming live animals when so many animals that are conventionally killed and processed before they make it to the table suffer just as much. But there's something so unnecessary and swaggering about the tradition that makes a personal repeat of the situation highly unlikely.

It's cruelty for the sake of pleasure. And I literally don't have the stomach for it.

Do you think eating animals that are still alive is cruel or yummy?


Image via tuppus/Flickr

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littl... littlelambe

I have no problem eating meat. But I do have a problem with the unnecessary torture and suffering of animals before they're eaten. If your going to eat it, put the animal out of it's misery, for pete's sake! It's cruel to skin an animal alive. No beef about that.

nonmember avatar Monzie

I couldn't do it. I'm a pescatarian (mostly for digestive reason) and can barely justify eating the little bit of fish I do consume. I do sometimes indulge in sushi but seeing it alive first would make me feel awful. I quit watching "Iron Chef" when they did the octopus battle and butchered them on TV while the the animals were desperately crawling to get off the chopping block. The image still haunts me years later...

angev... angevil53

is this really that different from eating the claws off of live crab? they harvest only one claw and throw it back so it can regenerate another one, for next season. i wouldn't shudder if i had to kill a steer but i would think probably more than twice if i had to cut a "fresh" steak off of one. i don't think i could do it and i grew up on a farm where we killed and skinned our own chickens, pigs, and cattle.

cassi... cassie_kellison

I'm not a vegetarian, I enjoy a burger, even a seafood buffet, but to me, my beef and shrimp come from the freezer section. In no way do I want to see the thing twitching on my plate. Kind of makes me think of The Little Mermaid where Sebastian is running around the dining table. I'm not down for that.

Coburn Coburn

Thats just disgusti g and unnecessary cruel. They should be forced to watch "Food Inc", because of that we spend more % on food just to eat organic.

Pishyah Pishyah

Not acceptable.  Eat food but treat things with compassion.  Put it out of its misery.

LindA... LindAngeLevi

I was vegetarian for nearly 4 years. I now eat organic chicken and beef and that's it. The bible has a list of clean meat and unclean meat which you shouldn't eat. Lobster and shrimp are among the sea creatures that should not be eaten. But eating them alive is so sad and disgusting. I can go on and on about how much pain they feel. But I won't go into that every creature big or small has a pain receptors and I cringe in horror of imagining being that poor helpless little bugger while he/she is watching you smile and about to gobble them up. So sad and extremely cruel imagine doing that to a small little puppy. A life is a life. I can't even explain how sad I am about this :(

Lokis... LokisMama

There is something to be said for the massive flavor difference between fresh food and packaged food.  I mean, even the difference between a fresh farm egg and one from the grocery store is astounding. 

I would try it.  I imagine it's fairly expensive, but I would like to try it at least once, just to say I have tried it.  But then, I want to try deep fried locusts and chilled monkey brains for the same reason.

Alene Anello

The animal you kill for fun, dies in earnest. Your guilt or pleasure is nothing compared to what they endured. Cannibals feel the same way, exhilarated when they eat their enemies’ flesh, but animals are not our enemies. Eat with your head and your heart, not your vicarious interest in overcoming squeamishness. Squeamishness is there for a reason. Go to and grab a free vegetarian starter kit and you can eat like a thinking, decent person.

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