Italian Supreme Court: keeping live lobsters on ice in a restaurant is mistreatment


The Italian Supreme Court sentences a restaurant to a 5,000EUR fine for keeping lobster on ice. The high court confirms that crustaceans are sentient beings capable of experiencing pain if they are mistreated.

The Italian Supreme Court states that lobster feel pain if they are kept on ice before being taken to a kitchen, particularly if their claws are tied. Those that follow this practice are considered to be mistreating the animal, as per Article 727 of the Italian criminal code. Because of this, the Supreme Court sanctioned the Campi Bisenzio restaurant in Florence to a 5,000EUR fine, in addition to paying compensation damages to the LAV  (Antivivisection League).  

The high court maintains that it is one thing to cook the animals when they are still alive, something that constitutes a “habitual social practice”, however it is another to keep them in a way that causes “suffering from being kept on ice and tied up” before being cooked […]. The owner of the restaurant defended himself by explaining that the crustaceans arrived from America in boxes of ice with their claws tied, and he therefore provided the same conditions until they were cooked. The Supreme Court stated that this claim was inadmissible due to various pieces of research in recent years, which have resulted in a part of the scientific community taking the view that these animals are capable of experiencing pain as sentient beings. The Supreme Court proposes alternative methods of keeping lobster before they are cooked, such as aquariums with an adequate temperature and level of oxygen, a system that is used in both supermarkets and by leading restaurants.  

In short, from this point forward, many Italian restaurants will have stop using methods which preserve lobster and other crustaceans on ice, because this causes the animals to suffer. 

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Italian transposition of the Lab Animals Directive still in infringement

mouse on human hand | 2002 | schoenbrunn vienna |

On February 15 2017, the European Commission sent a reasoned opinion (second step of the infringement process) to Italy for not having transposed properly the EU Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Directive 2010/63/EU). Already in April 2016, a letter of formal notice was sent to Italy by the EU Commission. If the Italian authorities fail to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

This Directive, which should have been enacted into national law by 10 November 2012, ensures a high level of animal welfare while safeguarding the proper functioning of the internal market. It also aims to minimise the number of animals used in experiments and requires alternatives to be used where possible. Italy had enacted the Directive in March 2014; however, a number of points of non-conformity need to be addressed. On certain aspects, the Italian law remains below the animal welfare standards set out by the Directive, while Italy invokes its allegedly higher standards on other issues, which can disturb the proper functioning of the internal market.



Hope for better conditions of Wild Animals in Italian Zoos and Aquaria

The Italian ministry of environment promised
to end degrading shows with wild animals and to scrutinize the licences

A big step forward seems to be done for wild animals in Italian zoos and aquaria: after two years of activities by the Animal Welfare organisations LAV and Born Free the Italian government reacted with a formal letter. The confirmed to scrutinize the compliance of the zoos and aquaria with national and EU legislation. This means that the discovered shows and performances with animals will be stopped and the issued licenses will be proved and institutions infringing national or/and EU legislation will be closed.
This is the result of the campaign for wild animals initiated by LAV and Born Free Foundation. Since 2014 these Animal Welfare Organisations tabled five reports based on intensive research about their inquiries of zoos and aquaria in Italy, including photos and video documentation, to the Italian Minister of Environment. Not only the conditions of keeping the animals were mostly extraordinary poor and against the EU standards, they discovered and documented wild animals required to perform unnatural behaviors in unnatural settings such as parrots made to ride bicycles, chimpanzees to entertain the public dressed in clothes and delphins made jumping through hoops for food reward. Now finally the government has officially reacted. The ministry for environment stated that these shows in particular are an infringement of national legislation (Decreto no 73 of 2005) but also against the EU Directive for Zoos (1999/22/EC) and the Minister promised to stop the degrading shows with wild animals and to prove the issued licences and to withdraw them when necessary.
Since 1999 the EU Zoo Directive is valid – even it is an extraordinary short Directive it provides the Member States with clear obligations regarding zoos and comparable institutions and to implement adequate national legislation. And, more than this, in 2015 the EU Commission published the result of a study, a ‘good practices document’ to help the EU Member States to improve compliance with the EU Directive by concrete practical advice and giving species specific examples.
Again this situation confirms the important role of Animal Welfare Organisations in the field of enforcement of legislation on national and EU level. And of course LAV and Born Free will continue to improve the announced measures for compliance by the Italian Competent Authority.