Peter Hoffman Considers the Crab


Last week, a slew of articles shed light on the issue of whether or not crustaceans can feel pain. In the Atlantic, Trevor Corson reported on the debates inspired by a UK study suggesting that crabs may in fact not enjoy being boiled alive, while the Huffington Post offered a round-up of opinions on the best way to kill a lobster humanely, as well as a video in which Eric Ripert demonstrated his own lobster-slaying technique.

Peter Hoffman, whose Back Forty restaurant has just extended its annual summer crab boil until September 29, offers Fork in the Road a philosophical take on the matter.

“You know, we’re involved in taking lives to feed ourselves all the time,” he muses. “I guess it’s just a little closer since it happens in our restaurants or kitchens.”

While he hasn’t read any scientific studies, Hoffman says, “I’m dubious of what level of intelligence and consciousness invertebrates have. They’re fascinating animals, but still fairly limited. But I realize I’m speaking from a very anthropocentric place.”

Still, the real issue, he feels, is how animals are raised, not how they’re killed. “It’s more important to be spending our time thinking about the mammals and birds we
raise, and what their conditions are like over their entire lives,” he says. “The moment of
slaughter is but a moment.

“I don’t want to minimize the feelings around that,” he adds. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do in America without worrying about the slaughter of crabs.”

The blue crabs that Hoffman serves at his crab boils, by the way, are steamed.