How often does anyone think about the animals we ‘consume’ and what their lives may actually be like? Do shrimps mediate and pray that they don’t end up on our dinner plates? Do we feel an intimate bond with this small creature the way we do our cows, goats and sheep? I’m inclined to say no.
When it comes to the bounty of the sea, we have been less inclined to give a hoot about animal welfare. Some even say that sea creatures feel no pain. But is this true? Well, we should have a big debate about it. While the shrimp is a common food source, it is not exactly a ‘cheap’ food item. The prawn is a staple food in many cultures even if it has somewhat of a luxury status.
Prawn and shrimp should be a common sight on almost every shore; but they are difficult to spot not only because of their small size, but also due to their tendency to hide in burrows or just beneath the sand. Even those that we are able to see can easily disappear from view as many of them are nearly transparent in appearance. They have adapted to dwell beneath the sand. It is thus ironic that despite this natural defence mechanism, they can be found on dinner menus all over the world.
Why? The answer is simple. Despite the way the shrimp hides and burrows, it can be found easily near the seafloor of most coasts and estuaries as well as in rivers and lakes. The shrimp has been consumed by most cultures that had close access to a body of water.
In the 1980s, the farming of shrimp became especially prevalent. It would take a few decades, but a few years after the turn of the millennium, the harvest from shrimp farms surpassed the capture of wild shrimp.
Like many marine creatures, shrimps undergo metamorphosis. They change their shape as they develop through their life cycle. Most species of adult shrimps migrate to deeper waters to breed and release their eggs. Eggs usually hatch fast. The larvae of the shrimp look nothing like the adults. They drift along with the plankton till they develop further. When they begin to look more like ‘shrimp’, they migrate back to shallow waters.
A strength that I associate with the shrimp is its ability to intuitively know when to move forward and when to back off. As they’re largely solitary and shy creatures, they tend to prefer hiding in the sand to asserting themselves out in the world. It is this very versatility and agility that enables them to sense when danger is nearby and when they should retreat.
In most cases, the shrimp is not a social animal. This natural defensiveness has not, however, protected it from all situations. But was it made to be eaten? Well, that depends on who you ask.