Lobsters have gone from being considered “trash” food fit only for servants, the poor, and cats to being a much-loved, often expensive delicacy.

Everyone has heard the myth that lobsters “scream” when tossed in a pot of boiling water—they don’t, they have no vocal cords, but research does indicate that lobsters (and crabs) may feel pain.

It is on this basis that Switzerland passed a law last year banning the boiling of live lobsters.  The law goes into effect on March 1st.

USA Today reports:

When it comes to cooking fresh lobster, the Swiss are now saying: We feel your pain.

A law goes into effect March 1 that bans the common cooking method of tossing a live lobster into a big pot of boiling water, quickly killing the tasty crustacean. That practice is being outlawed because the Swiss say it’s cruel and lobsters can sense pain.

The first national legislation of its kind in the world calls for a more humane death for lobsters, by “rendering them unconscious” before plunging them into scalding water. Two methods are recommended: Electrocution or sedating the lobster by dipping it into salt water and then thrusting a knife into its brain.

In addition to lobsters, USA Today further reports, the new law provides that dogs cannot be punished for barking and that cats and hamsters must be allowed to see and/or socialize with others of their species.

The same law also gives domestic pets further protections, such as dogs can no longer be punished for barking.

The measure is part of the broad principle of “animal dignity” enshrined in Switzerland’s constitution, the only country to have such a provision. The constitution already protects how various species must be treated and specifies that animals need socialization.

That means cats must have a daily visual contact with other felines, and hamsters or guinea pigs must be kept in pairs. And anyone who flushes a pet goldfish down the toilet is breaking the law.

The Swiss initially wanted to ban the import of live lobsters completely, but as this would violate international trade agreements, they moved to protect them from “inhumane” treatment during transport and up to the time of their death.

In addition to banning the cooking of live lobsters, the Swiss law also provides that crustaceans be protected in transit. It will no longer be legal to transport live lobsters and crabs on ice; they must be kept in seawater.

USA Today continues:

Although lobster consumption in this land-locked country is “negligible,” the parliament had tried to ban the import of all live lobsters to prevent them from an agonizing death at the hands of Swiss restaurant cooks, Kunfermann said.

That drastic measure against imports would violate international trade agreements, so authorities instead issued new rules on how to make the lobsters’ demise as painless as possible.

The law also stipulates that lobsters must be transported to their final Swiss destination in their natural environment — seawater — rather than on ice.

The government vows that offenders will not slip through the net. State officials will be responsible for enforcement, and Kunfermann said offenders could land in a lot of hot water, with sentences of up to three years in prison.

The Swiss are not alone in their desire to ban the cooking of live lobsters.  The UK is also considering similar measures.

The Daily Mail reports:

Switzerland’s changes come as Britain prepares to make similar amendments to their own animal welfare policy on lobsters.

Earlier this month UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice said the government was looking at bringing in a law that would mean crustaceans had to be either frozen to death or stunned.

Campaigners want ministers to change animal welfare laws to include decapod crustaceans for the first time because they say there is evidence they feel pain.

Mr Eustice yesterday said the government was considering amending the legislation. He told BBC Radio 5 Live: ‘There is a serious issue.

‘We know that among some of the larger crustaceans, such as lobsters, they do not feel conscious pain in the way that we do.

‘But there is some evidence that they have a nervous system that enables them to detect stress and this is something that we ought to be considering.”