Monday, August 14, 2006

Culinary Mythology: Lobsters Scream with Pain When Boiled

It's commendable that people do not want to inflict pain on animals, but this one is false on two accounts. First of all, pain doesn't just happen automatically - it is the result of specific receptors, nerve pathways, and brain regions all cooperating to convert certain physical stimuli into the perception of pain. This has all been thoroughly worked out in humans and other vertebrates. But guess what - lobsters and other crustaceans are not vertebrates and simply do not have these nerve pathways and brain regions (they don't have a real brain at all, for that matter). In other words, no brain, no pain (sorry, I couldn't resist that one!).

What about the "scream" that lobsters sometime emit when dropped in the boiling water? There's the problem that lobsters have no throat, no vocal cords, no lungs, so how could they scream at all? The fact is that the noise is caused by air trapped in the shell. When heated it expands and forces itself out through small gaps, causing the sound.
I always have a tendency to want the real scoop but reading The Daughter of Time just brings that tendency to the fore. Here is a series of excerpts I ran from The Oxford Companion to Food debunking:
Tags:Food

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