An animal welfare organisation is concerned that commercial operations are not aware of the legal requirements for killing crayfish.
It comes after a chef admitted not rendering a crayfish insensible before cutting off its tail in a Christchurch restaurant in February last year.
Jun Yin Wei was discharged without conviction when he appeared Ashburton District Court recently.
Safe head of investigations Will Appelbe said cases like Wei’s rarely made it to court, but he had concerns that this sort of incident happened quite often.
There was little awareness that crayfish needed to be rendered insensible before they were killed, he believed.
“We’re seriously concerned about how widespread this is.”
Appelbe said Safe was also concerned about the use of chilling methods used to render the crustaceans insensible.
Crayfish experienced significant pain and distress when they were frozen, he said.
“If chilled crayfish are not killed, they can regain consciousness while boiling,” he said.
Safe would like to see the freezing of live crayfish immediately banned.
The welfare organisation also wants the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to launch a public awareness campaign on slaughter methods, in addition to thorough monitoring and enforcement, he said.
MPI director of animal health and welfare Carolyn Guy said MPI had received 12 complaints about crayfish since 2017.
Of these, two were identified as cases.
“There were no infringements issued or prosecutions undertaken – and the cases were resolved through education.”
The SPCA also responded to complaints about crustacean welfare, she said.
Guy said it was an offence to kill crab, rock lobster, crayfish, or kōura farmed or caught for commercial purposes unless the animal was insensible before it is killed.
If chilling is used, the “requirement is for the crustaceans to be chilled to 4°C or less, but not frozen.”
The purpose of chilling is to render the crustacean insensible, without damaging the edible parts of the body.
This recognised that freezing the animal was not an appropriate method, she said.
The code was updated in 2010, with amendments in 2018 and 2022, and was due for a full review in 2023/24.
In terms or education, MPI had engaged with industry representatives and also had a information leaflet available online.
Between March and June this year there had been 100 leaflets ordered, Guy said.
- By Sharon Davis