A lobster thrown live into boiling water may suffer for many seconds, according to a scientist who argued Thursday that crustaceans can likely feel pain.

A set of experiments on crabs revealed the animals are willing to give up a valuable dark hiding place in order to avoid an electric shock. Crabs in the study learned to avoid the shelter in a laboratory tank where they had repeatedly been shocked with electricity, said Bob Elwood of Queen’s University in Belfast who led the study printed in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

“They were willing to give up their hideaway in order to avoid the source of their probable pain,” Elwood say.

Elwood said it was impossible to prove beyond doubt that the animals feel pain, but added the research results were “consistent” with pain and noted, “Perhaps we should err on the side of caution.”

“Crabs have their claws torn off and the live crab is thrown back in the sea. Lobsters and prawns have the front half of the body torn off from the abdomen, which is kept for the meat. The nervous system in the head and thorax is still functional an hour later,” he said.