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Is There a Humane Way to Cook Lobsters?

Kristine is an expert editor, writer and 'The Office' binger.

A Swiss ban & growing evidence lobsters can feel pain are changing how people cook the crustacean

The common culinary practice of throwing live lobsters into boiling water to cook them has been thrown out the window — in Switzerland, at least. On Wednesday, Jan. 10, the Swiss government effectively banned the boiling water method and ruled that lobsters must be stunned before boiling.

This ruling, which takes effect March 1, comes amid scientific evidence and concern from animal rights advocates that lobsters are able to feel pain.

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According to PETA, lobsters have a sophisticated nervous system. Invertebrate zoologist Jaren G. Horsley tells them, “The lobster does not have an automatic nervous system that puts it into a state of shock when it is harmed. It probably feels itself being cut… As an invertebrate zoologist who has studied crustaceans for a number of years, I can tell you the lobster has a rather sophisticated nervous system that, among other things, allows it to sense actions that will cause it harm. [Lobsters] can, I am sure, sense pain.”

So, what’s the most humane way to kill a lobster?

First, let’s define humane slaughter. According to the Humane Slaughter Association, it is as follows: “As with mammals, a humane slaughter is one that results in an immediate loss of consciousness, or if slow-acting, induces unconsciousness without discomfort or pain. This unconsciousness should persist until death intervenes.”

Once the new rule takes effect, only electric shock or the “mechanical destruction” of the lobster’s brain will be accepted methods of stunning the animals, according to Swiss public broadcaster Radio Télévision Suisse and the Humane Slaughter Association. Once you stun the lobster, it’s recommended you kill it immediately.

If you want to humanely cook your lobster at home, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Australia has created step-by-step instructions that can be found here.

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Another option is using the aquatic fish anesthetic AQUI-S. According to studies, this kills lobsters without causing pain or distress.

With so many options for humane ways to cook a lobster, it seems crazy to keep utilizing such a cruel cooking method. Let's hope other countries follow in Switzerland's footsteps and ban the inhumane act of boiling live lobsters.

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