Lobster electric shocks quell animal rights fears

A P.E.I. company has sold its first ever lobster stunner to a North American processor to help that company reach markets in Europe.

German supermarkets boycott live boiled lobster

the lobster emerge from the stunner either dead or unconscious, says Charlottetown Metal Products. (CBC)

A P.E.I. company has sold its first ever lobster stunner to a North American processor to help that company reach markets in Europe.

The lobster stunner, made by Charlottetown Metal Products, gives lobsters an electrical shock that either kills them or stuns them. In either case, there is no fear the animals would feel any pain when then thrown into boiling water for cooking.

Charlottetown Metal Products is not interested in entering the debate about whether lobster feel pain, says vice president Trevor Spinney. (CBC)

The traditional method for killing lobster is simply to throw them into a pot of boiling water where they quickly die, and then cook. But there is a longstanding debate between traditionalists and animal rights activists about whether the crustaceans have a nervous system that is advanced enough for them to feel pain.

Trevor Spinney, vice president of Charlottetown Metal Products, said he's not really interested in that debate.

"I can't really comment whether we're doing it because we think the lobster feel or don't feel pain," said Spinney.

"It's really a market decision."

And the market in Germany has spoken.  The Albert Schweitzer Foundation says the latest research proves shellfish feel pain, and the animal rights group has convinced several supermarkets in Germany to stop selling lobster because the animals are cooked alive.

In order to retain that market, a New Brunswick lobster processor has decided to invest in a lobster stunner.

"Once the lobster comes in contact with the water it'll also come into contact with an electrode on the top side, and then receives a jolt of current, which renders the animal basically dead, or stunned," said CMP seafood project manager Jim Reeves.

Still problems with lobster processing, says group

CMP says scientific research confirms the animal experiences no pain during the stunning.

The company has shipped several of the machines to crab processers in the UK and Ireland, and is now focusing on the lobster processing market.

Mahi Klosterhalfen of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation said the stunners are a step in the right direction but there are still issues with lobster that need to be resolved.

"The lobsters are still transported, basically stacked on top and next to each other which causes a lot of stress," said Kosterhalfen.

"I know of several supermarket chains who would not sell lobsters who were transported like this."

CMP said some processers on P.E.I. have shown interest in buying a lobster stunner, but no one has decided to buy the product so far.

For mobile device users: What is your opinion of stunning lobsters before killing them?