Chefs in Switzerland are to be banned from boiling live lobsters as the traditional culinary method has been deemed cruel under new animal protection laws.

As of 1 March, the practice of plunging live lobsters into boiling water, which is common in restaurants, is no longer permitted, the Swiss Federal Council ordered on Wednesday (10 January).

Lobsters will instead have to be stunned before they are killed; the stunning techniques allowed by law are electricity and the "mechanical destruction" of the brain.

The new law also specifies that lobsters, and other living walking decapods, can no longer be transported on ice or in icy water, according to Swiss broadcaster RTS. The animals must instead be kept in their natural environment.

Reacting to the new legislation, Elisa Allen, director of animal welfare charity Peta, said: "Peta videos show that live lobsters' limbs were torn off while they were still conscious and that chefs split open their backs, applied butter and salt, and thrust them under the grill. And when plunged into scalding-hot water, they writhed wildly and scraped at the sides of the pot in a desperate attempt to escape.

"So to anyone in a civilised society who isn't Bear Grylls, this legislation makes sense. Lobsters are sensitive animals with sophisticated nervous systems, and according to research published in Science journal, cooking them alive amounts to 'torture'.

"While this law may put an end to one of the cruellest ways of killing these fascinating beings, the best way to help them is simply to leave them off our plates by choosing instead from the multitude of delicious vegan foods readily available to us all."

In 2013, a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that crabs and lobsters probably feel pain for several seconds after being thrown into boiling water.

Bob Elwood of Queen's University Belfast explained that an experiment found crabs were willing to give up their dark hideaways after receiving electric shocks there. Ellwood said: "They were willing to give up their hideaway in order to avoid the source of their probable pain."

However, the Lobster Institute in Maine maintains that lobsters do not feel pain because their nervous systems are so primitive compared to that of an insect.

The institute said: "For an organism to perceive pain it must have a complex nervous system. Neurophysiologists tell us that lobsters, like insects, do not process pain."

The new Swiss animal protection laws will also crack down on illegal puppy farming. A dog seller must list his or her address and the origin of the animal in any adverts on or offline.

Devices to stop a dog from barking will also be prohibited from March, including those that emit a jet or water or compressed air.