I'll have my lobster electrocuted, please

Painless method of killing crustaceans developed

The heart-rending sound that a lobster makes as it is boiled alive puts off many a home chef from preparing the dish for a dinner party.

But now anyone can serve up a buttered lobster freshly cooked in their own kitchen, safe in the knowledge that it has been humanely killed, thanks to a British entrepreneur.

Simon Buckhaven has created a machine that takes less than a second to efficiently and painlessly zap a lobster, crab or other crustacea to death. The price – at £2,500 – may deter some but many an animal lover or restaurant chef will think it a small price to pay for a cruelty-free death. Plus, according to the manufacturer, the CrustaStun also makes the meat taste better.

Inside one of the little machines that are going on sale this week, a lobster takes just 0.3 seconds to die, whereas it can live for three minutes in boiling water. A crab takes even longer to die as it is boiled to death – up to four and a half minutes.

After several trials here and in the US, Mr Buckhaven's firm, Studham Technologies, in Bedfordshire, has developed a machine that takes five seconds to use, and meets health and safety and other regulations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The entrepreneur is firmly in the "yes" camp in the old argument about whether lobsters feel pain. One side is that their nervous systems are not complex enough to experience what humans would recognise as pain, implying that, for a lobster, being placed in boiling water would be like being sent gently to sleep in a warm whirlpool bath.

This conclusion was buttressed by research published in Norway in 2005, but in November 2007, Professor Robert Elwood, of Queen's University, Belfast, published the results of an experiment which involved daubing acid on the antennae of prawns. The animals immediately reacted by touching the affected areas, a reaction consistent with experiencing pain, although other specialists in the same field argued that the prawns may simply have been cleaning their antennae, without suffering distress.

Mr Buckhaven is in no doubt that research like Professor Elwood's is conclusive, and means that the practice of subjecting crustaceans to a slow death will have to end.

"These are sentient animals, who feel pain and distress, and you should not boil them alive, or drown them in fresh water, or cut them in half while they're alive," he said. "A lot of people who love to eat lobster do not like preparing it at home because they have to cook it in boiling water. And restaurants are more frequently hearing questions from customers about how their lobster will be killed."

He added that in one blind test, customers were given lobsters killed in boiling water and lobster that had died in a CrustaStun, and every participant said that they preferred the meat from the electrocuted animals. "It was sweeter meat and better consistency," he said. "If you eat an animal which had been under stress before it died, it affects the meat quality."

However, a planned demonstration of the CrustaStun turned into an unmitigated disaster – not least for 1,800 lobsters.

It was a charity event for 600 guests in Tucson, Arizona, whose organisers had consulted the animal welfare group Peta, to see if there would be any objection to having lobster on the menu. Peta said it would be acceptable, if the lobsters were killed in the CrustaStun machines rather than being boiled or drowned in fresh water. Peta bought two of the machines and paid for Mr Buckhaven to travel out to demonstrate them. The machines were shipped out separately. Sadly, the delivery company let them down, 1,800 lobsters died horribly, and the machines turned up in Tucson two days late. "We were completely let down, and are suing to get the money back," Mr Buckhaven said.

Despite that catastrophe, he is convinced that there will be a growing demand for his machines. His company is now offering two types of lobster zappers. The larger industrial models, which cost over £60,000 each, are already in use in the UK, Ireland, Norway and Portugal. Some supermarkets are now stocking lobster only if it has been killed by electrocution.

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home