Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I just saw the movie Julie and Julia this weekend, and watching Julie agonize over steaming the live lobster reminded me of a disastrous experience I once had with a lobster. I had decided to try a recipe where you broil it, but to do this you must kill it first.
I read instructions directing me to insert a knife into the head between the eyes to kill it quickly. I steeled myself and stabbed accordingly. The lobster went limp, so I flipped it over and started to slice the tail lengthwise. Just as I inserted the knife into the tail, the tail curled up vigorously and rhythmically. This was no mere twitching. That tail fought hard to escape. And it startled the heck out of me because I thought I had already succeeded in killing it, and there it was writhing and flapping about like the creature in the horror movie 'The Tingler'.
I felt horrible that I had not managed to dispatch the poor thing with a minimum of suffering. But it turns out I am not alone in having trouble killing lobsters swiftly. A quick scan of u-tube entries shows that in most cases, the lobster keeps moving significantly after the "fatal" blow. I suppose the 'nerve center' (a few paired ganglia) of a lobster is quite miniscule, so it is easy to miss. Also, since their nervous systems are so simple, they seem to keep functioning even after taking major damage. They are arthropods after all; just think how insects can keep moving after dismemberment.
There is disagreement in the scientific community over whether or not lobsters experience pain. None of their nerve cells appear to be 'pain receptors', but at the very least, the nerves in the tail I tangled with were saying, "Get me out of here!"