The Swiss government banned the common practice of boiling lobsters alive. They “will now have to be stunned before they are put to death” as stated in the government order.

This decision comes as part of a wider animal protection policy initiated by Bern. It comes also as a reaction to the strong evidences suggesting that crustaceans do feel pain; which has been demonstrated by dozens of research efforts worldwide.

One of the early papers [1] that had handled the subject was published in 2013 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Its authors, Barry Magee and Robert W. Elwood, had demonstrated that crabs tend to avoid electric shocks and are therefore sensitive to pain. A snapshot of their experiment is as follows:

“Each crab was placed in a dark compartment of a double chamber and, despite a natural preference to be in the dark, many moved to a light compartment, where some received an electric shock. They were then allowed to return to the dark chamber. When retested up to 3 h later, those that received a shock showed a greater latency to enter the light chamber. Crabs were also slow to enter the light chamber after a 24 h rest period if three training sessions had been given. Thus shock increased a natural reluctance to enter the light area.”

In fact, the practice of plunging live lobsters into boiling water is very common. Professional chefs argue that their meat goes bad very fast; and that the only way to prevent that is to boil them alive.

However, this culinary rule is facing a strong resistance from the animal rights advocates. Backed by piles of scientific evidences, these groups argue that crabs have a sophisticated nervous system which allows them to feel pain.

[1] Shock avoidance by discrimination learning in the shore crab (Carcinus maenas) is consistent with a key criterion for painBarry MageeRobert W. Elwood,