Five Reasons Not to Eat Prawns

Why we shouldn't eat prawns

1. They are Living Beings Who Feel Pain

Prawns travel in schools for protection against predators. They are known to snap and click to communicate with one another and intimidate other marine life when they feel in danger. [1]

Prawns, like all animals, have a central nervous system (CNS), which means they are capable of experiencing pain. Studies have found that when prawns experience pain, they rub the affected area for up to five minutes – the exact way a mammal would respond. Professor Robert Elwood said, “the prolonged, specifically directed rubbing and grooming is consistent with an interpretation of pain experience.” [2]

Female prawns have a maturity gland behind their eye, which tells their ovaries when they are ready to reproduce. The gland is affected by the environment. Prawn farmers have realised that the stressful farming conditions can make females reluctant to reproduce. Rather than accommodate for this, the prawn industry damages the gland to make the females reproduce sooner. Eyestalk ablation, the process of slicing open, cutting or burning off their eyes, is legal in Australia without pain relief.

A study on eyestalk ablation found that the prawns’ behaviours after the procedures reflected pain, “including tail flicking as a reflex response to allow escape and rubbing the affected area”. [3]

A prawns’ death is not peaceful. Once they are removed from the water, they either die from asphyxiation (the equivalent to you drowning), are crushed to death, or freeze when they are dumped on the ice.

Prawns in the ocean
Prawns in the Ocean

2. Farming Prawns

Prawns are forced to live in crowded conditions, with roughly 500,000 individuals per 1ha^2. Naturally, most prawns are long-distance travellers and the holding ponds deny them this ability. A study with tagged prawns found that a school of prawns can move up to 120 km and king prawns up to 930 km from their home estuary in their spawning run to the ocean! [4]

In the wild, prawns are given a chance at survival. Ponds like those seen below guarantee their death sentence. In the wild, prawns can live for up to three years (so long as they can escape predators), but in the food system, they are killed at just four to six months old.

Australian Prawn Farm
Australian Prawn Farm

3. Fishing for Prawns

Prawns play a vital role in the ocean’s ecosystem. The little critters remove parasites and dead skin off other animals and are known for saving sea cucumbers and slugs from ectoparasites. They also clean up waterways by consuming algae. [1]

“Bottom trawling” is the method used for catching wild prawns. Large weighted nets are dragged along the ocean floor. As the seafloor is dredged up, it mixes pollutants with plankton, allowing them to enter the food chain. It can also cause algae blooms and lead to the creation of oxygen-deficient dead zones. The nets are also indiscriminate; they scoop up all sea creatures (dolphins, starfish, turtles, sharks, and even coral) in the process. The industry refers to these victims as “by-catch” and often trashes their lifeless bodies. [5] It is estimated that “by-catch” equates to up to 40% of annual catches. [6]

Over-fishing, pollution, drilling, and oil spills, are all major threats to global prawn populations. [1]

Bottom trawler used to catch prawns
Example of a bottom trawler

4. They are Bad for Your Health

Despite being advertised as a ” healthy, low-calorie protein”, prawns are incredibly high in cholesterol. Their bodies contain roughly 189-milligrams of cholesterol per 100-grams (that’s just 4-5 prawns). This means that approximately 8 prawns will put you over the daily recommended allowance of 300 milligrams of cholesterol! (Did you know that no plant food in the world contains any cholesterol?)

Studies found that all sea creatures, from whales to prawns, have plastic fibres in their stomachs. [7]

You could also be ingesting high amounts of antibiotics. Although Australia has banned antibiotic use on prawn farms, their feed may actually still contain antibiotics. The industry recently switched to “NoCatch” feed, which is made up of the by-products of human food fish processing facilities to replace the wild-caught fish meal (another aspect that is damaging the ocean). [8] As the fish bred on Australian fish farms are given antibiotics and fed the left-over body parts of chickens, pigs and cows (who are also fed antibiotics), prawn feed would most likely contain traces as well (no studies have been done to confirm this at this stage).

The “cleaning” process often leaves behind traces of poop – meaning you are eating parasites, skin and algae second-hand!

Prawn in ocean

5. There are Alternatives!

During the festive season, Australians will consume around 45,000 tonnes of prawns, which equates to roughly 900,000,000 individuals. [9] Each one is a sensitive being with a will and strong desire to live.

Be one less person harming animals by choosing a readily available alternative at the supermarket or making your own from mushrooms!

Lamyong: Vegan Prawns (Available at The Cruelty Free Shop and All About Empathy)

Plant Asia: Plant-Based Prawns (Available at Woolworths)

Sophie’s Kitchen: Breaded Vegan Prawns (Available at Woolworths)

Sophie’s Kitchen: ‘Naked’ Prawns (Available at Vegan Perfection & Coles)

Make your own Vegan Prawns, recipe by Olives for Dinner.

Vegan prawns