Imagine being thrown onto a table and pinned down as someone cuts off one of your arms. A group of nervously giggling diners is sitting nearby — ready to feast on your flesh. You’re terrified and in excruciating pain, and you want nothing more than to get away. But you can’t escape. You’re kept alive, conscious and in pain, until each limb is cut off, one by one, for other diners. Then you’re killed. It sounds like the plot of a horror movie, but at some restaurants — including in the United States — this is the fate of octopuses who are hacked apart while still alive for the Korean dish “sannakji” (literally, “wriggling octopus”).
It should go without saying that eating live animals doesn’t just push the boundaries of good taste. It’s animal abuse, plain and simple.
PETA eyewitnesses visited restaurants in New York and Los Angeles where mutilated sea animals are dished up while still alive and conscious. At T Equals Fish, for example, eyewitnesses watched in horror as chefs held down an octopus — nicknamed “Pearl” — cut off some of her sensitive limbs with a butcher knife, then quickly plated and served them to customers while they were still writhing.
But Pearl’s agonizing ordeal was far from over. At this restaurant, mutilated octopuses are kept alive until other customers order the remaining limbs. Trying desperately to escape, Pearl was pushed aside like a halved tomato. According to the chef, only after every last limb was cut off would staff then rip out her intestines and let her die.
At some restaurants, lobsters’ tails are torn off, prepared “sashimi style” and plated right next to their mutilated but still-living bodies for the amusement of patrons. Live lobsters can only watch, helplessly, as diners eat their severed tails.
Chefs “prepare” live shrimp by cutting their tails off and plating them alongside their moving bodies or by tearing off their protective exoskeletons so that diners can bite right into their flesh.
Restaurants also steam octopuses, lobsters and other animals alive in “live seafood” hot pots. Raucous and giggling restaurant-goers often poke at the struggling animals, and some customers are “tasked” with keeping them in the pots because they try so desperately to escape the hot steam.
Sea animals are not merely swimming vegetables, and it’s not OK to chop them up as if they were carrots or cucumbers. Lobsters and octopuses are smart, have unique personalities — and are sensitive to pain.
Researchers know that octopuses are extremely intelligent and curious animals. They play, just as dolphins and dogs do, and are often mischief-makers in aquariums. Readers may recall news stories from earlier this year about Inky, the octopus who cleverly waited until “lights out” at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, then squeezed through a small gap at the top of a tank, scampered across the floor and slid down a 164-foot drainpipe to freedom.
Researcher Michael Kuba says that lobsters are “quite amazingly smart animals.” They use complicated signals to explore their surroundings and establish social relationships.
Shrimp are social beings who use sound or polarized light to communicate. Some live in complex colonies similar to beehives, while others mate for life.
And, like all animals, sea animals feel pain. Cephalopod expert Dr. Jennifer Mather says, “(Octopuses) can anticipate a painful, difficult, stressful situation — they can remember it. There is absolutely no doubt that they feel pain.” According to invertebrate zoologist Dr. Jaren G. Horsley, “(A) lobster is in a great deal of pain from being cut open … (and) feels all the pain until its nervous system is destroyed.”
Eating out shouldn’t be a blood sport. Please don’t patronize restaurants that have live-animal dishes on the menu, and let the manager know why you’re staying away. And consider going vegan. These days, it’s easier than ever to do, so there’s no reason for any animals — dead or alive — to end up on our plates.