What is the most humane way to cook lobsters—boiling them or steaming them in the microwave?
None of the above!
Contrary to claims made by seafood sellers, lobsters do feel pain, and they suffer immensely when they are cut, broiled, or boiled alive.
Most scientists agree that a lobster’s nervous system is quite sophisticated. For example, neurobiologist Tom Abrams says lobsters have “a full array of senses.” Jelle Atema, a marine biologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and one of the country’s leading experts on lobsters, says, “I personally believe they do feel pain.”
Lobsters may even feel more pain than we would in similar situations. One popular food magazine recently suggested cutting live lobsters in half before tossing them on the grill (a recipe that’s “not for the squeamish,” the magazine warned), and more than one chef has been known to slice and dice lobsters before cooking them. But, says invertebrate zoologist Jaren G. Horsley, “The lobster does not have an autonomic nervous system that puts it into a state of shock when it is harmed. It probably feels itself being cut. … I think the lobster is in a great deal of pain from being cut open … [and] feels all the pain until its nervous system is destroyed” during cooking.
Don’t heat up the water just yet, though. Anyone who has ever boiled a lobster alive can attest that, when dropped into scalding water, lobsters whip their bodies wildly and scrape the sides of the pot in a desperate attempt to escape. In the journal Science, researcher Gordon Gunter described this method of killing lobsters as “unnecessary torture.”
In fact, after looking at a dozen methods commonly used to kill and cook lobsters, Massachusetts’ Coalition to End Animal Suffering and Exploitation concluded that none “provides a reliably quick or painless death” or can be “considered humane or even relatively humane.”
We would never subject dogs or cats to such cruel treatment—why should it be any different for lobsters? If you’re ready to liberate lobsters—and other animals—from your plate, request a free copy of PETA’s vegetarian starter kit.