The Swiss government banned restaurateurs Wednesday from throwing lobsters into boiling water while they were still alive, amid concerns that crustaceans feel pain during the common culinary practice.

“The practice of plunging live lobsters into boiling water, which is common in restaurants, is no longer permitted," the ruling that will take effect in March stated. “Live crustaceans, including the lobster, may no longer be transported on ice or in ice water. Aquatic species must always be kept in their natural environment. Crustaceans must now be stunned before killing them."

According to Swiss public broadcaster RTS, only electric shock or the “mechanical destruction” of the lobster’s brain will be accepted methods of stunning the animals. Lobsters react to sudden stimulus, like twitching their tails when placed in boiling water.​

The ruling came as part of a broader reform of the country's animal welfare regulations.

Animal rights advocates and some scientists argued lobsters and other crustaceans have sophisticated nervous systems and likely feel significant pain when boiled alive. Animal welfare scientists define pain as "an aversive sensation and feeling associated with actual or potential tissue damage."

The latest order also aimed at a crackdown on illegal puppy farms and imports, and also banned devices that automatically punish dogs when they bark.

In 2013, Robert Elwood, a professor of animal behavior at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, said there was evidence crustaceans — crabs, prawns, lobsters and other creatures — feel pain when boiled alive. 

According to Elwood, crustaceans are subjected to “extreme procedures” — lobsters in factories having their legs removed while they are still alive, crabs being kept alive in ice water in fish markets, and live prawns being impaled on sticks for eating. Such procedures, he noted, “would never be allowed with vertebrates.”

During his experiment with lobsters, Elwood thought he would see nothing more than reflex reactions. But, when he brushed acetic acid on their antennae, they began grooming the treated antennae with complex, prolonged movements of both front legs. During another experiment, Elwood found crabs learned to avoid a hideaway where they were repeatedly given an electric shock.

A Norwegian study from 2005 concluded lobsters do not have brains, so they do not feel pain.

With the belief that lobsters felt pain when boiled alive, Whole Foods in 2006 banned the sale of live lobsters and crabs in its stores, citing that transporting, storing, and cooking live animals was inhumane.