Switzerland Bans Boiling Of Lobsters, Other Crustaceans Alive

By Maui Hermitanio | Jan 13, 2018 07:14 AM EST

Boiling a lobster alive will soon be considered illegal in Switzerland. The country has revamped its laws to further protect animals, including large marine crustaceans.

Swiss Government Bans Boiling Of Live Lobsters

Boiling live lobsters is a common culinary practice in restaurants. However, chefs and restaurateurs in Switzerland are now required by law to follow a more humane way of cooking lobsters other than throwing it alive in a pot of boiling water.

The Swiss government has ordered a ban on the boiling of live lobsters as part of efforts to reform its animal welfare laws.The landmark legislation comes amid growing scientific evidence that invertebrates such as lobsters, crabs, and crayfish are capable of feeling pain.

Starting March 1, Swiss laws require that crustaceans be stunned first before they are put to death through cooking. It will be also illegal to transport lobsters in ice or icy water as the revamped laws rule that all aquatic species must always be in their natural environment.

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This new lobster law is part of an overall reform in Switzerland's animal protection laws. According to Swiss cabinet officials, animals are sentient and therefore, must not be allowed to suffer unnecessarily.

The new law also bans the use of automatic devices that punish dogs for barking. Illegal puppy farms in Switzerland will also be apprehended.

Can Invertebrates Sense Pain?

This legislation in Switzerland has sparked a debate on whether invertebrates including crustaceans can feel and sense pain.

"Crabs and lobsters deserve protection from being cooked alive," says Dr. John Birch, an assistant Philosophy professor at the London School of Economics.

Various experiments conducted at Queen's University in Belfast showed that crabs gave up a dark hiding place they inhabited when exposed to electric shocks. This indicates that crustaceans manifest rapid avoidance learning to keep away from certain stimuli such as pain.

"The lobster has a rather sophisticated nervous system that, among other things, allows it to sense actions that will cause it harm," explains invertebrate zoologist Jaren G. Horsley, who also said he is certain that lobsters can sense pain.

While there is no absolute proof that lobsters can feel pain, constant experiments ran by scientists indicate an idea of pain in lobsters and similar animals. Queens professor and animal behavior expert Robert Elwood supports a more humane approach with lobsters.

Crustaceans may endure stress due to low oxygen levels and overcrowding in tanks when kept in confinement.

PETA Lauds Pro-Animal Laws

Animal welfare advocates praised the new law and said other countries should follow suit. PETA has lauded the new Swiss animal welfare law, saying it is long overdue.

The group that is known for its active campaign to stop cruelty against animals also took a swipe at the U.S. government for not enacting laws to protect crustaceans.  It said the best way to help animals is to avoid eating them.

Italy also approved a similar law in June, ordering that crustaceans can't be kept on the ice and be subjected to unjustifiable suffering before facing an instant death in fine dining restaurants.

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