The lobster industry in Maine is big business, pumping Maine's economy with $1 billion a year. When people around the world think Maine, they think lobster. It's been on two versions of our license plates, both of them red, because a cooked lobster is the way most people expect to see a lobster.

As much as people love their lobster, many have questioned the cooking process. As Mainers, we know that the most common way to cook a lobster is to boil it in a pot of water by dropping it in alive. That's something that some people have a problem with.

In 2018, Switzerland made it illegal to boil a lobster, claiming it was cruel and lobsters can feel pain. And that makes us all wonder, can lobsters feel pain when dropped into a boiling pot of hot water? Lobsters have been known to flap their tails when they are first dropped into the pot. Is that a sign that they feel pain? We looked to the experts of all things lobster, The University of Maine Lobster Institute, for the answer.

Getty Images
Getty Images

According to a 2018 article by the Guardian, Professor Robert Steneck of marine sciences at the University of Maine said that he isn't convinced that lobsters feel pain. "There is no compelling case I’ve seen that suggests they feel pain. You don’t really see this level of concern for people who eat oysters or clams — they’re certainly every bit as alive.”

The Lobster Institute of Maine also says that a lobster’s nervous system isn’t complex enough to process pain. It only has 100,000 nervous system cells compared to a human who has 100 billion, and compares it to the nervous system of an insect.

Robert Bayer, a former director of the Lobster Institute was quoted as saying “When you put them in boiling water, the primitive nervous system that does exist is destroyed so quickly they’re unlikely to feel anything at all.”

So, there you have it from the experts. All evidence found through research shows that you shouldn't worry about that lobster feeling pain when you drop it in a boiling pot of water. The next debate? Hard shell or soft shell?

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