Okay, ladies and gentlemen, the article below (For Cod’s Sake Stop Fishing) provides a perfect example of the irrational and false arguments against recreational fishing that we must confront and dispel. Written by a PETA “senior writer,” it appeared, unchallenged, in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead on June 8.
No doubt the organization managed to get it inserted in other media as well.
Particularly note the second paragraph, which alleges that fish can feel pain and fear and “these facts are no longer in question.”
But none of the “facts” cited are supported by credible fisheries scientists.
Here’s the truth:
“When a fish is hooked by an angler, it typically responds with rapid swimming behavior that appears to be a flight response,” says Dr. James Rose, who has spent more than 30 years studying neurological responses to pain in animals. “Human observers sometimes interpret this flight response to be a reaction to pain, as if the fish was capable of the same kind of pain experience as a human.”
But fish “don’t have the brain systems necessary to experience pain,” he says, adding that “flight responses of fish are a general reaction to many types of potentially threatening stimuli and can’t be taken to represent a response to pain.”
Someone did respond (Anti-Fishing Column Nonsense). But even though the writer did defend fishing for food, she bought into the argument that fish feel pain and fear.
That’s what is insidious and dangerous. If these zealots can convince enough people that fishing for sport is wrong, they will be well on their way to banning fishing entirely. They've already achieved a ban on catch-and-release fishing in parts of Europe.
I write about this threat and others in “No Fishing?,” an essay in my new book, Why We Fish.
The threat is very real, my friends. Please don't ignore it.
For cod’s sake stop fishing
Earlier this month, a German angler made headlines for reeling in a 103-pound cod off the coast of Norway. The fish is believed to be the largest cod ever caught anywhere in the world, and if confirmed, the catch will break the existing record, which was set back in 1969. As I looked at the obligatory photos of the grinning angler with his “prize” and giving the “thumbs-up,” my first thought wasn’t, “Atta, boy!” but “How disconnected does a person have to be to take pleasure in killing other living beings – any other living beings?”
Here are two things that anglers should know about their supposedly “harmless” pastime: Fish can feel pain, and they can experience fear. These facts are no longer in question.
Even though fish don’t scream audibly when they are impaled on hooks, their behavior offers evidence of their suffering. When biologist Victoria Braithwaite and her colleagues exposed fish to irritating chemicals, the animals behaved as any of us might: They lost their appetite, their gills beat faster, and they rubbed the affected area of their bodies against the side of the tank.
A study in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science found that fish who are exposed to painful heat later show signs of fear and wariness – suggesting that they both experience pain and remember it.
Other studies have shown that fish communicate distress when nets are dipped into their tanks or they are otherwise threatened. Researcher William Tavolga, for example, found that not only do fish grunt when they receive an electric shock, they also begin to grunt as soon as they see the electrode, in anticipation of the painful experience to follow.
Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada concluded that fish feel fear when they are chased and that their behavior is more than simply a reflex. The “fish are frightened and … they prefer not being frightened,” says Dr. Ian Duncan, who headed the study.
Now think about what all this means. Try to put yourself in the fish’s place. When fish are impaled on an angler’s hook and yanked out of the water, panicking and gasping for breath, they aren’t having a good time. It’s not a game to them. They are scared and in pain and fighting for their lives.
Anglers may not want to hear this, but fishing is nothing more than a cruel blood sport, and killing animals for pleasure – just so that someone can set a world record or pose for a silly photo with a corpse – is inexcusable. It’s time to stop pretending that it’s “good, clean fun” to engage in an activity in which most of the participants aren’t even participating willingly but are, instead, desperately struggling in vain to stay alive.
Moore is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation.
Anti-fishing column nonsense
As an avid fisherwoman married to an avid fisherman and mother to two avid fisher-boys, I just had to write my first-ever letter in response to the Paula Moore opinion column in the June 1 Forum.
If I understand correctly, we are not supposed to fish because it hurts the fishies. I do not discredit the facts presented but, honestly, why someone would test fish for pain tolerance leaves me scratching my head. And I see Moore did not bring the smack-down on those “researchers.” But what of those of us who fish to eat? Are we now required to not fish to eat because it hurts the fish? And is the next step worrying about the feelings of the cows and chickens and pigs?
Good grief. Has she not heard of the circle of life? If we are now supposed to worry about the feelings of fish, then it is nothing but downhill from here – to the dock, to the lake, to the boat to fish.