EXPERTS at Weymouth Sea Life Park have launched a campaign to encourage people not to eat octopus.
The campaigners say the creatures, which have no external or internal skeletons and are cephalopod molluscs, are as intelligent as dogs.
They say they are sentient creatures and deserve special status. Octopuses have been known to solve puzzles, unscrew jam-jars and play with Lego bricks.
They have started the campaign to try and get people to stop eating them.
Across the world octopus is eaten as a delicacy from frying them to recipes including stewing, braising and grilling.
Weymouth curator Fiona Smith, pictured above, said: “It’s been suggested for years that octopuses are as intelligent as the average pet dog.
“There are very few cultures who would consider eating a dog, and yet you can eat octopus in virtually any seafood restaurant anywhere.”
A new EU law names octopuses as ‘honorary vertebrates,’ giving them greater protection and special considerations when used in research.
The most famous octopus from Weymouth was Paul, who shot to fame by predicting eight-straight World Cup results in 2010.
Cephalopod specialist Kerry Perkins said: “Octopuses love to play. We’ve had octopuses that love unscrewing jam-jars, dismantling Lego bricks. Some even squirt water at passing staff.”
She added: “The octopus’s biggest problem is the fact that it doesn’t have a skeleton. It is classed as a mollusc, many of which are shellfish. For many cultures they are a food item to be harvested from the sea, and getting people to think of them in the same category as intelligent mammals will be a challenge.” The fact they live in an alien environment and breathe water makes it difficult to empathise with octopuses, Mrs Perkins said.
She added: “Any aquarist who has worked with octopuses will tell you they not only think – they are all individuals.
“They can sulk, they get angry and turn their darkest colour and jet about their display in a strop, and you always know when they’re really happy.”
Weymouth visitors will be asked to sign a pledge not to eat octopus.
Mrs Perkins said: “An octopus should excite fascination in humans, rather than their appetites.”