5 Interesting Facts about Octopus and Why We Shouldn’t Eat Them

Author: Miriam Porter

Octopus are incredible creatures and should be treated with love and kindness. They should never be stuck inside tanks, raised on factory farms, eaten or abused in any way. These eight-armed geniuses are playful, inquisitive, sensitive, determined and worthy of our protection. Read on to learn just how special octopus are and then take action to stop their exploitation.

1. Octopus are extremely intelligent

Octopus are the world’s smartest invertebrate and fiercely intelligent. The Coconut Octopus has been known to collect coconut shells for shelters and carry them around for protection and to hide from predators as a sort of camouflage. Other ways octopus have shown their intelligence is by using items found in the wild as tools and arranging stones around the entrance to their dens. Perhaps you have heard the story of Inky the octopus from New Zealand who escaped his aquarium enclosure. As reported in The Guardian in 2016, staff of the aquarium that was keeping Inky captive believe that in the middle of the night he climbed to the top of his glass cage, went down the side of the tank, travelled across the floor and then into a 50 metre long drainpipe that went into the sea. Inky, like all octopus, have no bones and are able to squish into very small spaces. But it takes a certain intelligence to be able to escape and flee to freedom. Well done, Inky!

2. Even their arms are smart

Did you know octopus arms have a mind of their own? In addition to their large brain each of their eight arms have their own form of intelligence and they can function independently. Due to having two-thirds of their neurons in their arms they are able to multitask like pros. It’s been suggested octopus have about 500 million neurons, of which 350 million are along their arms in clusters. Scientists have discovered that octopus are able to react quickly to situations and process sensory information in unique ways. Through multiple testing it was suggested their arms are able to make independent decisions from their brain. While one of their arms is busy looking for food on the ocean floor the other is able to crack open a shellfish.

3. Females protect their eggs before dying

Once they have mated both the male and female octopuses have limited time left on earth. After mating with a female, the male octopus wanders off to die, his work is now done. Female octopus can lay up to 400,000 eggs and then carefully guard them. By this point she stops eating and slowly begins the process her body must go through to die, so that by the time her babies are born she is ready. This species practices external fertilization, which means both of them die after mating. The soon to be parents have sacrificed their lives for their offspring to live. But sadly, baby octopus are often the main ingredient in meals eaten by humans. While researching how a mother octopus cares for her eggs, I unintentionally came across recipes for baby octopus. (Marinated, grilled and smoked baby octopus kept popping up in google searches). Try shiitake mushrooms as a cruelty-free and nutritious replacement to octopus.

There are some restaurants that serve live animals and PETA has published videos of people eating live octopus, including small ones. Imagine the fear and pain these intelligent creatures are forced to endure just for a meal that will soon be forgotten.

4. Octopus feel and remember pain

It is barbaric to eat animals while they are still alive. Can you imagine chopping off a cat’s paw and taking a bite? Octopus feel pain and they feel themselves being chopped up and eaten alive. In an article published by Vice they interviewed Jennifer Mather, PhD, an expert in the behaviour of octopus and squid at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.

“It's probable that the octopus's reaction to pain is similar to a vertebrate. They can anticipate a painful, difficult, stressful situation—they can remember it. There is absolutely no doubt that they feel pain. The octopus has a nervous system which is much more distributed than ours. If you look at us, most of our neurons are in our brain, and for the octopus, three-fifths of its neurons are in its arms.”

Furthermore, not only do octopus experience physical pain when abused, they are capable of feeling emotional pain too. This means that in addition to physical responses to pain they are able to experience feelings of distress and suffering. This was demonstrated in a recent peer reviewed study that you can read about here.  The study concludes that octopus learn to avoid sites where pain has been inflicted on them and they display strong negative behavioural changes when they are faced with pain. It has been discovered that octopus have long term and short-term memories but there is still so much we don’t know about these fascinating creatures.

5. Octopus don’t belong on your plate

Factory farming is a bad idea for all beings as nobody wants to suffer endlessly in a cage or tank only to be painfully killed. Countries that eat the most octopus are Korea, Japan and Mediterranean countries where they are considered a delicacy. As the demand for eating octopus increases, including in North America, it’s been called an ethical and environmental disaster with a whole new set of controversial issues. Despite the increased demand for octopus, the number of wild caught octopus is actually decreasing due to fishing. (Learn more about fishing here.) Octopus farming is cruel and immoral and this barbaric practice is condemned by both animal rights activists and many scientists. In addition to being extremely smart, octopus require stimulating and lively environments that are not found on factory farms. People are recognizing it is inhumane to force these exotic animals to live together in bleak conditions without anything that is natural to them. Forcing octopus into captivity and mass producing them for food is cruel and unnecessary.

Octopus are so much more complicated than what was previously believed, and they should be protected at all costs.

Five things you can do to help:

  1. Take part in our Watch Seaspiracy campaign.
  2. Leave seafood and animal products off your plate and replace with tasty plant-based alternatives!
  3. Start a Fish Save chapter in your area.
  4. Watch the Oscar winning My Octopus Teacher on Netflix which follows a filmmaker and their unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest.
  5. Share this blog article.

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