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There is no shortage of old wives' tales about the most humane way to kill a lobster. And the convenient thing, until now, has been that the chef has been able to choose a method of execution that fits with his or her outlook on life.

For those who favour a direct approach to the problem, the natural method has been sudden immersion in boiling water. For those of an extremist disposition, the practice of placing the creature in the freezer for a few hours in advance of boiling has appealed. "Softly, softly, catchee monkey" types have tended to favour placing the lobster in cold water and gradually turning up the heat.

The problem is that all these methods are rather cruel. According to Professor Douglas Neil of the University of Glasgow, electrocution is the most humane way of dispatching crustaceans. All the other methods, apparently, result in a protracted death for the creature.

Professor Neil deserves our gratitude for establishing this. But would it be unreasonable to hope that he does not turn his attention next to the most humane way to peel a potato? Some of us are too set in our ways to cope with further ethical revolutions in the kitchen.

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