I was googling interesting facts about lobsters/shrimp, etc when I was struck by something horrific to me…
When you type ‘lobster’, ‘prawn’, ‘salmon’ or any other sea life creature into google, instead of images of these things in the wild you get a plethora of pictures of dead bodies, coated in butter or breadcrumbs on a plate. I literally had to change my search to ‘Salmon alive in the wild’ to get to see an actual fucking fish swimming in the water!
Worse for me…immediately after the death pictures, you get a host of nutritional information such as calories, fat, protein content. 😔
It would be exceptionally easy to forget that these creatures are actually living, breathing (of a fashion) sentient beings. It comes as no surprise to me that many kids have zero idea that the food on their plate (especially sea food) was ever actually alive! You shouldn’t need to influence your search by using the world ‘alive’ and ‘swimming’ or ‘in the wild’ to see a live being. It’s forgivable to believe sealife is only here to provide calories and healthy oils to us humans, if you use a search engine to educate yourself on them.
This lead me into deep thought. Many people hate the thought of eating meat…such as cows, pigs, chickens, lamb…but are okay with consuming seafood. I started wondering what the difference is….
Firstly, we all have our own unique reasoning for following a lifestyle. So, you may be vegetarian; contrary to popular belief vegetarians DO NOT eat the flesh of ANY creature, including fish….and definitely not the odd cheeseburger when they’re steaming!
Within vegetarianism you have sub divisions, such as ovo-lacto vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy products (the most common form of vegetarianism); ovo-vegetarians who eat eggs but avoid dairy; and lacto-vegetarians, who have dairy but avoid eggs.
You may identify as pescitarian; a pesci refrains from eating any land animal products, but consumes seafood and biproducts of seafood freely.
Some people identify as plant based, now this is not black and white here….some plant based folk do not consume the flesh of animals, or dairy or eggs…but are okay with biproducts being in food, and wear/buy animal products etc. Others, follow a vegan lifestyle but use plant based because they’re not comfortable being labelled as vegan (because again, the vegan movement can be associated with mentalist, extrimeist, militant animal liberation).
So, why do we make our choices? What drives us to choose a path and follow it….and what drives us to deviate, or better, our choices?
For me, it boils down to education. I fully believe most of us do the best we can and when we know better, we do better. Now, clearly this isn’t the case for everyone, some people just don’t give a fuck about animal liberation, or welfare, or the planet. But, many of us do….and research shows people are becoming more informed about where their food is sourced and on a whole (especially in Scotland) compassionate choices are on the rise.
I became vegetarian over a decade ago. I became aware of the true horrors of factory farming, specific to chickens, cows and pigs. I made a decision to stop consuming meat. This was a really easy transistion. I genuinely didn’t comprehend the horrors associated with egg production or milk production. I quickly educated myself on eggs and made a decision to only eat eggs from my own chickens. I still didn’t educate myself on the dairy industry, but when I did….I stopped consuming dairy in any form…and that’s when my vegan journey began!
So, on that note….I thought I’d do a wee blog post on sealife. I have specifically chosen lobster (as this seems to be very popular on the menu right now), shrimp (a cheap and popular shellfish). We spend so much time fighting for land animals, but rarely do you see articles focussed entirely on sealife.
I was shocked at some of these facts. Let’s start with lobsters.
A rare blue lobster.
Have you ever heard the expression…you are my lobster? I have seen it around a bit, but was ignorant to what it actually means. Lobsters mate for life. They chose a mate and grow old together. They are often seen in the wild holding hands with their partner (or their young). Now, this is a serious commitment as in the wild lobsters can live to be 100 years old! 😯 They do similar things to us…they have a very interesting mating ritual. Now, I don’t think many of us do this first bit, but you never know! The female pees into the home of the male over several days to intice him (I’d buy them a drink, but whatever works for you!). Once he’s interested they begin their courtship…the spend days enjoying some foreplay (lucky lobsters I hear you say!). They stroke each other with their legs and taste each other through them. Once they’re in the zone the female derobes, she sheds her outer hard shell and her little sperm pod. This leaves her very vulnerable, so her BAE stands over her to protect her whilst her new shell hardens, which takes approximately 30 minutes. Once this is done he holds her head in his claws and looks at her whilst he deposits his sperm in the tiny pouch under her tail. Now, doesn’t that sound romantic?? She can then carry this sperm, live, for TWO YEARS until she decides the time is right to fertilise her eggs. How’s that for an independant woman?
They carry their young for 9 months. They go on holiday, travelling more than 100 miles every year! They can be right or left handed.
Now the really interesting things….lobsters do not have a central nervous system (an argument lots of people use to justify eating them). This is absolutely true, they don’t, I cannot refute this. However, instead of the CNS they have bundles of nerve tissues spread throughout their body. They have approximately 100’000 neurons, compared to 100bn in humans (although I’m sure I’ve met some humans who rival a lobster). I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favours if I didn’t present evidence based information, even if it doesn’t fully support my argument. So, with that, Scientists have proven that these neurons most definitely give them the ability to react to threatening stimuli, but they have not been able to determine whether or not they feel pain. And suffering….well, that’s almost impossible to measure in anything. Suffering is an entirely different question.
What they do know is that lobsters cannot go into shock, and as they react to threatening stimuli, they can ‘feel’ everything we do to them. Including when they’re boiled alive or dismembered alive. Now, note I said they feel it…we know this…how they perceive this, I don’t know for certain as there is no evidence to tell us.
Okay, enough of lobsters! Let’s take a wee look at shrimp.
A shrimp varies slightly from a prawn. A prawn has pinchers on the first 3 of their 5 pairs of legs. Whereas shrimp only have two pairs that are claw like! And…to totally confuse you…a shrimp in the US is a prawn in Australia! 🦐
Anyway, I’ve taken a slightly different approach to the shrimp chat. I’ve decided, in addition to looking at the actual shrimp, to look at the people involved in the production of our packaged shrimp.
Greenpeace state that shrimp caught and processed in Thailand is often associated with human trafficking! It is believed that trafficked workers in Thailand are held captive and forced to work 16 hour days preparing shrimp. Children, so small they have to stand on stools, spend 16 hours a day with their hands plunged in icy water to prepare these snacks! Many of these workers are locked in filthy sheds and threatened with violence.
Don’t worry though, you only buy shrimp caught in UK waters? Well….sorry folks, but Greenpeace report that even UK caught shrimp can be processed in Thailand. Apparently it is a cost saving measure to send the shrimp to Thailand! 😨 How can that even be??
As well as the human element, the shrimp industry is a total environmental nightmare. In the wild…nets stretching 200 feet are dragged behind boats. As a consequence of this, larger fish and sea turtles are caught in these nets ‘by accident’. To put that into perspective, 200 million fish are dragged up with shrimp every year. A bycatch…threatening entire eco syetems. In terms of turtles, it’s estimated that, despite measures to prevent these endangered creatures being caught, 50’000 turtles per year are killed as a result of shrimp trawling. Now THAT is terrifying to me!!
Ok, so let’s look at shrimp farms. Given what we’ve heard above about wild caught shrimp the farms must be better right? Well, think again….
Shrimp farms are perhaps even worse! They are clearing ecologically sensitive mangroves to create shrimp factory farms. It’s estimated that 1/5th of mangroves have been lost since 1980. These farms are known to be a cesspool of antibiotics, fertiliser, banned pesticides and waste. 🤢 Very appetizing!!
They say farmed shrimp have a carbon footprint of…wait for it…ten times more than beef cows raised on cleared amazon rain forest.
So, if that’s not put you off…let’s take a wee look at the little creatures themselves.
They dance!! They dance to attract fish…and when their dance moves work, they venture inside the mouths of fish and remove bloodsucking parasites.
They are defenders of coral! They live on coral and dine on the mucus of the host. They protect the coral from predators. They’re little knights in pink armour!
They’re super loud!! Their snapping claws are louder than a gunshot or jet engine. Wow…now that’s loud!
They too are victums of bycatch. We only want certain species of shrimp for our plate, so for every 1lb of ‘wanted’ shrimp 4lbs of ‘unwanted’ shrimp is caught by accident.
I’m aware this is a long post, but I felt quite passionate about it. Don’t interpret this post as a I’m more vegan than you’ post, as it really isn’t intended like this. It’s simply a learning post….an interesting post.
Like I say, we all have our own reasons for following a lifestyle. This is not about judgement, it’s about sharing information.
If you read it and change some things, great…if not, I’m still happy you took the time to read it.
Just keep swimming….! 😉