While musing with Goop co-workers on a group Slack chat, Gwyneth Paltrow made a pretty salient point about not eating octopus.
In a screenshot of the conversation that made the rounds via Twitter on Sunday, the 44-year-old actress argued against eating the sea creature.
“Octopus are too smart to be food,” she wrote. “They have more neurons in their brains than we do. I had to stop eating them because I was so freaked out by it. They can escape from sea world and shit by unscrewing drains and going out to sea.”
The incident Paltrow mentions about an octopus escaping to the sea is true, though it didn’t happen at Sea World and it didn’t unscrew a drain. In 2016, an octopus named Inky escaped from his home at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. According to a New York Times article documenting his escape, Inky went through the top of his tank, slithered eight feet across the floor, then made his way down a 164-foot-long pipe to the sea.
Many other octopus escapes have been documented over the years, some by unscrewing tanks or wiggling out of tight spaces.
“Octopuses are highly evolved and specialized,” Roger Hanlon, a professor at Brown and senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, said in a Live Science article. “They have the largest, most complex brain of any invertebrate animals on Earth.”
All of this information about octopus intelligence makes eating them a polarizing topic.
Some, like Paltrow, argue people shouldn’t consume octopuses because of their genes (they have around 10,000 more than humans) or their neuron count. Though as a report from Scientific American states, octopuses have 500 million neurons, while a human has around 100 billion (so Paltrow was actually incorrect when she said octopuses have more neurons than humans).
People eat octopus all around the world. In South Korea, some people eat live octopus as part of a traditional dish. Certain restaurants in the United States ― mostly found in California and New York City ― serve octopus live.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calls octopuses the “eight-legged Einsteins of the deep” and told The Huffington Post via email why the group doesn’t support eating octopus ― live or dead.
“Gwyneth was right, octopuses are highly intelligent and self-aware, and are notorious escape artists,” Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA, told HuffPost. “Scientists have verified that octopuses are capable of experiencing pain: Like humans, dogs, and pigs, octopuses have well-developed nervous systems, try to escape painful stimuli, and nurse their wounds.”
She added, “Octopus expert Dr. Jennifer Mather has stated that ‘There is absolutely no doubt that they feel pain,’ and explained that an octopus who is being eaten alive is in just as much pain as a pig, fish, or rabbit would be.”
We’ll leave the decision whether to eat octopus up to you.
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