Swiss government rules for lobsters to be 'stunned' before being boiled

Henrietta Brewer
January 14, 2018

Nearly all recipes instruct to plunge still-living lobsters head-first into boiling water before continuing with dressings or such.

The country's government has banned the common practice of "plunging live lobsters into boiling water".

A growing body of scientific evidence states that lobsters and other crustaceans like crabs or crayfish can actually feel pain, the BBC reports. Thankfully, there are new devices that can stun a lobster in a fast and humane way, with the voltage also killing the bacteria.

Some people have contended crustaceans like lobsters can't feel pain, since they only possess nociception, or "a reflex response to move away from a noxious stimulus", according to Nature's news blog.

"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. This new practice will go into effect March 1, according to The Guardian. "They would not recover consciousness if left in an attempt to do so". An Italian court ruled last June that lobsters can not be kept on ice in restaurant kitchens because it causes them undue suffering.

Some scientists argue that lobsters can feel pain, but the scientific community is divided on this. The Lobster Institute in ME argues that the lobster's central nervous system is primitive and insect-like, so they can react to stimuli but don't actually have the brain power to process pain. Robert Elwood, who led the team carrying out the experiments, said, "They were willing to give up their hideaway in order to avoid the source of their probable pain". He has performed experiments on crabs by offering them a choice of two shelters: one that consistently emits shocks, and another that does not.

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