The government is considering a ban on boiling lobsters alive as part of its move to strengthen the welfare rights of crustaceans.
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed the government has commissioned an independent external review of the available scientific evidence on sentience - the capacity to be aware of feelings and sensations - in both crabs and lobsters.
Following a report in The Times, they said officials will "carefully consider" the evidence, adding that the government is "fully committed" to strengthening the country's high animal welfare standards further.
If the government chooses to pursue the ban, it is believed a clause would be introduced into the Animal Welfare (Sentience Bill), which is currently making its way through the House of Lords.
The bill at present only covers vertebrates - animals that have a backbone - and not invertebrates such as lobsters, crabs and squids.
It follows calls from animal welfare charities for lobsters to be killed in a more humane manner, such as with an electric gun or by chilling them in cold air before boiling.
But if pursued, the plans could be deemed as controversial by those in the fishing industry who land hundreds of millions of crustaceans in the UK each year.
A spokeswoman for the Defra said: "We're proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and we are fully committed to strengthening them further to ensure all animals avoid any unnecessary pain, distress or suffering.
"We have commissioned an independent external review of the available scientific evidence and will carefully consider the results of this review."