Crabs, lobsters and octopus feel pain, a new study has said, with the UK government moving to recognise the crustaceans and mollusks as sentient beings.
But what does this mean for chefs, diners and restaurants in Malta who use them as ingredients?
With all three items being popular and common mainstays on Maltese menus, questions are being raised over whether a new approach to cooking needs to be implemented.
Currently, it is common for restaurants to boil the animals alive. A practice that’s been in place for a while, with some arguing that this is a way to destroy harmful bacteria on the meat.
Lovin Malta spoke to some leading Maltese chefs and restaurateurs to see what they thought about the new study, and whether they expect it to change practices across Maltese kitchens.
1. Marvin Gauci – Susurus, Don Royale
Surprised by the news, Gauci pointed out that many chefs and restaurants have been working under the common understanding that lobsters were cold-blooded and didn’t feel pain; the new survey may change things now.
“I believe in ethical cooking,” he said.
He pointed out that his eateries kill lobsters before boiling or cooking them. And when it comes to octopus, he says his restaurants freeze octopus to help tenderise them.
2. Nicholas Diacono – Tico Tico, New York Best, Fat Louie’s
“I’ve never boiled them alive, it’s the norm to kill them with a knife; plus, I don’t like cooking lobsters much as they’re flown in from Scotland or Canada,” Diacono told Lovin Malta.
He noted that anyone who has ever seen an octopus in the wild would realise just how intelligent they were – but they remain a popular dish that diners love due to their good flavour.
3. Ramona Preca – Palazzo Preca, King’s Own Band Club
Noting that octopus aren’t generally cooked alive, Preca said that boiling lobsters alive was a standard practice in Malta.
She was interested in seeing what best practice would become accepted following this survey – if practices change at all.
4. Daniel Grech – Burgers.Ink, Wagyu
“I’ve been cooking lobsters for years, and I’ve always been against lobster boiling,” Grech told Lovin Malta. “We use a lot of lobster on our menu, and we kill them in a humane way, with a knife in the middle of the head, and it’s over. We boil them straight after.”
“There’s also another way which is good – you can put them in a blast freezer and within minutes they’ll fall asleep and there will be no suffering.”
5. Justin Haber – Pitch16, Haber16
“I’ve known about this conversation for a while – on a human level, the lobster, yes, will feel being boiled alive,” Haber said. “What we do in my restaurants is we put a knife between their eyes so it’s much less painful for the lobster.”
“However, certain chefs, with the chaos of the kitchen and the orders, will throw in the lobsters as they are, alive – but we shouldn’t do that, we should respect the animal.”
6. Darryl Grima – Għand il-Vegan
“It is unfortunate that we fail to understand that animals that live in water feel just like land based animals,” Grima told Lovin Malta.
“This research shows that cephalopods (such as octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) and decapods (such as crabs, lobsters and crayfish) are sentient, and that also means that they feel pain and can understand what is happening to them. This comes to no surprise.”
“We need to start respecting animals that life in water and recognise that they too feel pain like us.”
“Additionally, human exploitation of the seas and fish is now also threatening the ecosystem balance. So much so that we are seeing international campaigns like 30×30, asking for 30% of the seas to be protected from fishing or mining by 2030.”
What do you think chefs should do when dealing with these live animals in their kitchen?