The State Government will consider a ban on boiling prawns, crabs and lobsters alive in its review of the Animal Welfare Act.
It comes as Switzerland last week followed New Zealand and Reggio Emilia, a city in northern Italy, in making it unlawful to boil lobsters alive.
RSPCA WA chief executive David van Ooran said the organisation wanted the ban on the practice that was used by some recreational fishermen in WA, as well as controls to ensure the humane capture, handling, transport and storage of the animals.
Mr van Ooran said the RSPCA backed science which said crustaceans showed responses consistent with signs of pain and distress.
An experiment by the Journal of Experimental Biology in 2013 found crabs avoided electric shocks, suggesting the animals feel pain.
But the international science community is divided on whether crustaceans can feel pain.
America’s Lobster Institute claims lobsters can not process pain because of their primitive nervous systems.
Mr van Ooran said commercial fisheries in WA already used the RSPCA-recommended ice slurries followed by dissecting, or the freezing method, to kill crustaceans.
But he said some recreational fishermen continued to boil crustaceans alive.
“You do hear that happening a bit, particularly in remote areas,” he said.
“Some fishermen will take them straight off the boat and straight into boiling water.
“It is distressing for everyone to witness and distressing for the lobster.”
The RSPCA wants crustaceans covered under the Animal Welfare Act, as they are in some other States.
The Marmion Angling and Aquatic Club said a ban would be impossible to police.
Manager Robert Weir said it would be better to run an education program to discourage fishermen from the “barbaric” practice.
Shadow fisheries Minister Ian Blayney said voluntary codes should be considered before a new law.
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the matter would be reviewed this year. “We are committed to ensuring animal welfare standards reflect the latest science on animal welfare,” she said.
The RSPCA has not recommended any particular penalties for the practice. Under the Act, animal cruelty is a criminal offence and conviction can include a criminal record.