Switzerland has just put a ban on boiling lobsters while they’re still alive and it’s a decision a lot of people can definitely get behind.
Although a lobster can make for a delicious dish, it’s often boiled alive during the cooking process, which has been met with a lot of public criticism and calls for a more humane cooking method. Now the Swiss government has made the culinary tradition illegal, requiring that lobsters be either rendered unconscious or quickly killed before being placed in a pot of boiling water.
The new law, which will come into effect starting March 2018, will also require a more humane mode of transportation when moving the lobsters from their natural habitat in the ocean to grocery stores and restaurants. Following a similar law put in place earlier by the Italian government, the Swiss government is no longer allowing for lobsters to be transported on ice. Instead, they must be kept ‘in their natural environment’ to minimize their suffering.
The Swiss government’s decision to put both laws in place has come after studies found that lobsters can perceive and feel things like pain thanks to their advanced nervous system.
In case you were wondering, the inhumane practice of boiling lobsters while they’re still alive is typically done to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying quickly once a lobster dies. Thankfully, there are new devices that can stun a lobster in a fast and humane way, with the voltage also killing the bacteria.
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. While lobster will continue to be served on menus and in grocery stores throughout the country, Elwood hopes that chefs will employ more humane methods. “With an experienced chef, using a large, sharp knife, thrust into the right place into the head of the lobster and then cutting down along the midway — that should kill the lobster very quickly and effectively — and is probably the most humane way in a small operation,” stated Elwood.
The professor also noted that while other animals have received protection from governments, the same can’t be said for many sea creatures. “We give protection to birds and mammals, currently we give very little protection to decapod crustaceans — lobsters and crabs,” Elwood said. “And the question comes, why is there this difference?”
Let’s hope that chefs all around the world can take a hint from our friends in Switzerland.