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Switzerland bans boiling live lobsters. Maine scientist says it should have little impact

Maine lobster expert says the crawling crustaceans do not feel pain but others disagree enough to ban boiling them live.

(NEWS CENTER Maine) — Lobster is big business in Maine. Any change to how countries around the world consume the crawling crustacean is important news for the industry.

The Swiss Federal Council issued an order banning cooks in Switzerland from placing live lobsters in boiling water.

According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2016 Maine exported $382 Million worth of lobster worldwide.

The Washington Post reports, the new measure protecting Maine's cash crustacean is set to begin March 1, 2018, in Switzerland mandating that lobsters must be killed before cooking, either by electric shock or other methods.

The measure raises the old-age question: Can lobsters feel pain?

USA, Maine, St. George, Fisherman holding lobster

Bob Bayer is the executive director of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute and has been studying lobsters for the last four decades.

"We do not think lobsters have the ability to process pain."

Bayer says lobsters are a very primitive species and that while they sense their environment and try to avoid threats like heat they do not actually feel pain.

"I do not see a brain in their nervous system," Bayer says. He compares lobsters nervous systems with those insects.

Bayer also does not think that the Swiss ban on boiling live lobsters will have a major impact on the profitable Maine export.

"We have seen things like this before and while the E.U. is an important market, markets like China are bigger," Bayer says.

Bayer points out that more than half of Maine lobsters are already dead when they are exported.

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