Last week, Switzerland’s Federal Council adopted new rules to improve the treatment of lobsters, part of a general revamp of rules on the treatment of animals.
Lobsters and other crustaceous animals can no longer be transported on ice or in icy water in Switzerland. Instead they must be kept in a natural environment. In addition, they must stunned before being killed, a procedure that excludes boiling them alive 1.
The killing must be done by someone qualified by one of two methods: electrocution or a stunning, destructive blow to the brain.
The new rules come into force on 1 March 2018.
Newspapers around the world seized upon the news. In the UK, the story ran in the Guardian and the BBC among many others.
A cartoon circulating on social media shows two lobsters discussing whether to put a human baby into a pot of water.
Among meat-eating cultures, Switzerland is an animal rights pioneer. In 1967, Switzerland banned the farming of frogs for their legs, in 1978 it banned the production of fois gras, and in 1981 it banned the practice of raising chickens in battery cages. These products can still be imported into Switzerland however.
Switzerland was also the first nation to mention animal dignity in its constitution.
Some restauranteurs, such as Frédéric Gisiger from Brasserie Lipp in Geneva, are fine with the change. Speaking to RTS he said it made sense to him.
Supermarkets in Switzerland will find it harder to sell live lobster. RTS reported that Manor had stopped stocking them.
The jury is still out among scientists on whether lobsters feel pain. Zen Faulkes, a biologist in the US, did research that strongly suggests that they know when it’s hot.
When marveling at the sophistication of the sea life presented in television series like the BBC’s Blue Planet, it does make you wonder.
Swiss government press release (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
1 Detailed rules – opens PDF – in French
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