The move to protect cephalopods and crabs/lobsters follows from research showing their intelligence and awareness of pain:
Following a report from the London School of Economics and Political Science, the British government has decided to extend animal protection laws to include “cephalopods (including octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) and decapods (including crabs, lobsters and crayfish).”
No, this is not just another nut moment along the lines of “Salad is plant murder!” There’s a background: Researchers have discovered in recent decades that some invertebrates, especially those with complex central nervous systems, are much more intelligent and capable of experiencing pain (sentient) than we used to think.
As George Dvorsky explains at Gizmodo, the British government introduced the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill in May but the bill defined sentient animals as animals with backbones (vertebrates) However, scientists have known for some time that some sentient animals are invertebrates like octopuses and lobsters. The report was commissioned to gather these findings so as to make a reasonable decision.News, “British government moves to protect octopuses from cruelty” at Mind Matters News
While all these types of invertebrates have not been studied to the same degree, there is general agreement that, as a group, they stand out for intelligence among invertebrates, in roughly the same way that crows stand out for intelligence among birds. And that’s a curious thing in itself. Just as crows can be as smart as apes while having very different brains, octopuses break all the rules for smartness but are still smart: “The organism does not contain only a single larger brain, but a unique network of smaller brains is also considered to be present in each of its prehensile eight arms.” (Chegg)
It seems that there is no straightforward evolutionary path to smartness. Some have called the octopus a “second genesis” of intelligence.
Takehome: Researchers are probing why some invertebrates are as smart as vertebrates. It seems that there is no straightforward evolutionary path to smartness.
You may also wish to read: Did minimal consciousness drive the Cambrian Explosion? Eva Jablonka’s team makes the daring case, repurposing Hungarian chemist Tibor Gánti’s origin of life studies. The researchers point out that life forms that show minimal consciousness have very different brains. Behavior, not brain anatomy, is the signal to look for.