By Lindsey Bever | Washington Post
Poached, grilled, or baked with brie.
Served on a roll, or in mac ‘n cheese.
Lobsters may be one of the most popular crustaceans in the culinary arts. But when it comes to killing them, there’s a long and unresolved debate about how to do it humanely, and whether that extra consideration is even necessary.
The Swiss Federal Council issued an order this week banning cooks in Switzerland from placing live lobsters into pots of boiling water – joining a few other jurisdictions that have protections for the decapod crustaceans. Switzerland’s new measure stipulates that beginning March 1, lobsters must be knocked out – either by electric shock or “mechanical destruction” of the brain – before boiling them, according to Swiss public broadcaster RTS.
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The announcement reignited a long-running debate: Can lobsters even feel pain?
“They can sense their environment,” said Bob Bayer, executive director of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, “but they probably don’t have the ability to process pain.”
Boiling lobsters alive is already illegal in some places, including New Zealand and Reggio Emilia, a city in northern Italy, according to the animal rights group Viva.
A Swiss government spokeswoman said the law there was driven by the animal rights argument.
“There are more animal friendly methods than boiling alive, that can be applied when killing a lobster,” Eva van Beek of the Federal Office of Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs said in an email.
Van Beek told The Washington Post there had been a motion to ban all lobster imports to the country, but the federal government “thought this measure was not applicable due to international trading laws.” Officials, she said, “also thought we could improve the animal protection aspect.”
So the legislation was amended.
And anyway, van Beek added: “Switzerland’s consumption of lobster [is] negligible. We are a landlocked country, lobster is thus regarded as a rather exotic delicacy, which is served only in special restaurants.”
Jeff Bennett of the Maine International Trade Center said the United States’ live lobster exports to the European Union in 2016 totaled $147 million. But the United States exported only $368,000 worth of live lobsters to Switzerland that year, he said.
Switzerland’s new order also states that lobsters, and other decapod crustaceans, can no longer be transported on ice or in ice water, but must be kept in the habitat they’re used to – saltwater, according to RTS.
The issue of lobsters in kitchens is controversial.
Do live lobsters really scream when they’re plopped into boiling water, or is that merely the sound of air escaping from their bodies?
Do they squirm because they’re in pain, or simply because they can sense heat?
Bayer, a scientist at the Lobster Institute, said these questions have been debated for decades – and the answers lie somewhere in science.
Although the most common opinion held by researchers is that lobsters (and their hard-shell relatives) cannot process pain, there is …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News