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Animal Welfare : SPCA Positions > Food
Most humane slaughter methods

- For Crabs

At home, the most humane method at present of killing a crab is first to lower its body temperature, before spiking it.

The crabs should be placed in a refrigerator or freezer at below 4 degrees celsius. Putting crabs in the freezer for two hours will generally kill most of them. It is best to lower the temperature slowly so that the shock does not cause them to suffer unnecessarily. The chill should be slow, and not inflicted on the crabs suddenly.

Crabs will generally be insensible by this time, and this can be ascertained by
- tapping their shells to see if there are any eye reactions;
- whether there is control over limb movements;
- whether there is resistance to handling, especially in the tail or abdomen;
- whether there is reaction around the mouth when it is touched.

At this point, the crab should be spiked through the brain with a sharp pointed tip. The insertion of a knife into the head of the animal will generally kill it, if it is not already dead.

Restaurants may consider machines like the Crustastun ( which stun the animals with an electric shock which then kills them. The crab will be rendered insensible by an electric shock and then killed in less than 10 seconds.

Killing crabs humanely also increases the quality of the meat as killing by other methods increases the amount of adrenaline in the crabs. This causes the meat to be less tasty.

- For Lobsters/Crayfish

Similarly, the best way of killing a lobster is to first render it insensible, using the refrigerator/freezer method described above.

The lobster can then be further prepared. Spiking lobsters through the head may not be the most humane method to kill them. Rocklobsters, for example, have several nerve endings.

The lobster should be put on its back, with its claws tied. Lobsters have a chain of nerves running down the middle of their bodies. Determine where the midline (the middle point) is on the bottom of the lobster is. Using the midline as a starting point, trace the path to the head of the lobster, beneath the mouth parts. Cut through the head to destroy the brain, but do not sever the head.

Put your knife back on the midline, and draw it sharply towards the head. When you are done, then do the same towards the tail. After cutting in half lengthways through the longitudinal midline, quickly remove the chain of nerve centres at the front end (chest and head) of the lobster. You should not take more than 10 seconds to finish this entire procedure.

Restaurants and larger enterprises should consider machines that administer electric shocks, like the Crustastun. Lobsters are said to die within 5 seconds using this method. The lobster is placed in a saltwater tank and a stun button is pressed, which renders the lobster insensible, before killing it.

- For Prawns

Put the prawn into a refrigerator or freezer at below 4 degrees celsius. This should be done until the prawn is insensible. The prawn is insensible when the tail can be extended without resistance and can be easily moved about. Its outer mouthparts will by this time, also be easily moved. Death will usually occur at -15 degrees celsius. However it is best to reduce the temperature slowly, so that the prawn does not go into shock.

The prawn should then be humanely killed by rapidly cutting through the centerline of the head and tail.

Restaurants should consider designating people who are experienced to humanely kill the prawns. This will not only allow for it to be done more humanely, but more efficiently as well.

- For Fish

Fish should be kept in water until just before they are to be killed. To humanely kill a fish, they should be stunned or spiked. (

Stunning is the killing of the fish by an accurate and strong blow to the head. The blow should be aimed just above the eyes so that the brain is targeted. If the fish does not look dead, then another blow should be attempted.

Spiking involves using a sharp spike through the brain of the fish. The spike should again be placed in a position to penetrate the brain of the fish. It should then be driven sharply into the brain. The blow should produce immediate unconsciousness and the spike should then be moved around from side to side to destroy the brain.

It is also possible to chill the fish slowly in a refrigerator or freezer (as stated above) and then to decapitate the fish.

Restaurants should consider designating people who are experienced to humanely kill fish. This will not only allow for it to be done more humanely, but more efficiently as well.

What Not to Do

The following methods are not advised because they are not humane methods.

- For Crabs

Avoid the following methods of killing crabs as they cause unnecessary suffering:
- Throwing the crabs in boiling water;
- Removing the shell of the crabs while it are still alive;
- Pulling the pinchers off crabs while they are still alive;
- Introducing carbon dioxide into the water;
- Leaving crabs to drown in freshwater;
- Steaming crabs while they are alive;
- Microwaving crabs alive.

Boiling or steaming crabs while they are alive causes the crabs to produce more adrenaline which causes the meat to be less tasty.

- For Lobsters/Crayfish

Avoid the following methods of killing lobsters/crayfish:
- Throwing lobsters/crayfish into boiling water;
- Removing parts of the lobsters/crayfish while still alive;
- Leaving them to drown in freshwater;
- Introducing carbon dioxide into the water;
- Microwaving lobsters/crayfish alive.

- For Prawns

Avoid the following:
- Throwing prawns in boiling water;
- Cooking/soaking them alive in wine;
- Eating prawns alive;
- Microwaving prawns while they are alive.

- For Fish

These methods do not result in a quick and humane death for the fish and should be avoided:
- Chilling the fish with ice in the water used to hold the fish;
- Carbon dioxide added into the water used to hold the fish;
- Chilling with ice and carbon dioxide in the water used to hold the fish;
- Salt or ammonia baths;
- Asphyxiation of the fish by removing them from water;
- Bleeding the fish without first stunning them.

Cutting up a live fish without first stunning or spiking it also releases adrenaline which will compromise the quality of the meat.