Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Switzerland bans boiling live lobsters in animal welfare reform

Switzerland bans boiling live lobsters in animal welfare reform

Lobsters may not really scream when you boil them - they don't possess vocal cords - but research shows they can feel pain, and Switzerland's government made a decision to do something about the common culinary practice of boiling lobsters alive.

And Switzerland isn't on the coast anyway, so you probably shouldn't eat lobsters there as they'll have been in a van for a day before getting there and the meat will be all tense from the journey. Aquatic species must always be kept in their natural environment.

As part of a wider overhaul of Swiss animal protection laws, Bern said that as of March 1, "the practice of plunging live lobsters into boiling water, which is common in restaurants, is no longer permitted".

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

Elwood has conducted a series of experiments that suggest crustaceans are sentient and that boiling them alive is inhumane.


Professor Robert Elwood, who specializes in ecology and evolution at Queens University in Belfast, explained that the new laws put in place by the Swiss government will hopefully inspire other countries to follow. "We give protection to birds and mammals, now we give very little protection to decapod crustaceans - lobsters and crabs - and the question comes, why is there this difference?" He said there's strong evidence crustaceans do feel pain. 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.

"It's a positive move, the Swiss are looking at a potential problem and trying to deal with it", he says.

The new law doesn't mean taking lobster off the menu.

More humane methods of killing and cooking include freezing lobsters to stun them and driving the tip of a knife swiftly through their heads before adding them to hot water.

Elwood hopes to discourage the practice of not only boiling but also dismembering while the animal is alive.

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