Lobsters May Feel Pain, So It's Now Illegal to Boil Them Alive in Switzerland

Updated | Instead of throwing live lobsters into a boiling pot of water to cook them, chefs in Switzerland will now have to follow more humane practices. Beginning March 1, cooking live lobsters is no longer permitted in restaurants. The crustaceans “must now be stunned before they are put to death,” The Guardian reports.

“If stunned electrically or if the brain is destroyed mechanically they are effectively dead,” Robert Elwood, an ecology professor at Queen’s University Belfast, told Newsweek via email. “They would not recover consciousness if left in an attempt to do so.”

Once the crustaceans are stunned, they can then be boiled pain-free. The new law comes after an abundance of evidence has shown that lobsters, crabs, prawns and other invertebrates feel pain. Elwood has studied crustaceans for decades and has explored whether the animals do in fact feel pain—a belief that’s often debated. In a 2013 experiment, Elwood examined how crabs react to being electrically shocked.

Related: Lobster Found With Pepsi Logo Branded on Its Claw Is a Grim Symbol of Pollution in Our Oceans

1_11_lobster Photo taken early on December 23, 2014 shows cooked lobsters for sale in the auction house at the Sydney Fish Market in Sydney. The Sydney Fish Markets opened for its annual 36 hour seafood marathon where trading goes non-stop from 5am December 23 to 5pm December 24 in what is the markets' busiest period of trade. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

He gave the crabs two different options for shelter: one that caused repeated shocks and another which didn’t. The results revealed that the crabs were more likely to leave the shelter which gave off the shocks, whereas the animals in the other shelter remained there.

“Assessing pain is difficult, even with humans,” Elwood said, according to the journal Natures news blog. But there’s “clear-long-term motivational change [in these experiments] that’s entirely consistent with the idea of pain.”

Along with the new cooking methods, the Swiss law also outlines new guidelines on transporting the animals from the oceans to stove and ultimately, your dinner table. According to the new law, “live crustaceans, including the lobster, may no longer be transported on ice or in ice water,” reported euronews, a news media service in France. “Aquatic species must always be kept in their natural environment.”

Related: Massive Lobster Claw Found off Coast of Wales Hints at Giant Crustacean Living in Water

A similar law, which ruled it’s cruel to put lobsters on ice, was passed last June in Italy’s highest court.

“While the particular method of cooking can be considered legal by recognizing that it is commonly used, the suffering caused by detaining the animals while they wait to be cooked cannot be justified in that way,” the judges wrote, Reuters reports.

The Swiss laws also addresses a number of other animal rights issues, including puppy farms and devices that punish dogs for barking, according to Reuters. 

This article has been updated with a new quote by Robert Elwood.

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