PETA: Time to Give Fishing the Hook

The animal rights organization says that fish are intelligent animals that have personalities. Local anglers might disagree who frequent Laguna Niguel Lake where more than 46,500 pounds of rainbow trout have been stocked since November.

Here's some food for thought for the anglers who have been reeling in the stocked trout at  recently: Fish are intelligent animals who form complex social relationships and "talk" to one another underwater. Fish can count and tell time, they are fast learners, they think ahead, they have unique personalities, and they may even have a sense of humor.

They also feel pain, as all animals do. If you wouldn't put a hook through your dog's mouth and drag him or her around, you shouldn't do it to a fish, either. When it comes to pain, there's no difference.

In her book Do Fish Feel Pain?, biologist Victoria Braithwaite says that "there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals."

After surveying the scientific literature on fish pain and intelligence, not only did researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada conclude that fish feel pain, they also insisted that their welfare deserves our consideration.

For anglers who argue that fish "lack the brains" to feel pain, University of Guelph researcher Dr. Ian Duncan reminds us that we "have to look at behaviour and physiology," not just anatomy. "It's possible for a brain to evolve in different ways," he says. "That's what is happening in the fish line. It's evolved in some other ways in other parts of the brain to receive pain."

Even "catch-and-release" anglers aren't off the hook. Fish have particularly sensitive mouths and lips that they use in much the same way that we use our hands, and removing a hook from a fish's mouth can result in debilitating injuries. Fish who are caught and thrown back into the water often die from injuries or stress. A 2006 study of a Wisconsin catch-and-release tournament, for example, found that a staggering percentage of fish who were caught washed up dead within a few days.

Given all that we know about fish sentience and their ability to feel pain, fishing can no longer be considered a benign pastime. Hiking, biking, birdwatching, and canoeing are just a few of the ways that we can enjoy the great outdoors without causing animals to suffer.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; PETA.org.

Karen April 07, 2012 at 07:28 PM
This is what drives me crazy about PETA. More concerned about fish than treating other human beings with respect and care. I'll worry about fish when all people are treated with respect and dignity!
Jenn B April 07, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I'm not a PETA supporter, and I agree that they can sometimes go overboard, but I definitely agree that fish can think and remember things. I have no doubt that fish feel pain, and when they're snagged by a fish hook, I do believe that's cruel to the fish - even for "catch and release." (And no, I don't understand why anyone would WANT to fish if they're just going to release the fish and not eat them.) I'd honestly prefer to eat fish that were caught in a net. Sure, the end result is the same; a dead fish, supposedly for human consumption. But it's without the unnecessary pain to the fish. Yes, of course we all need to treat people with respect and dignity, but I also think we should try to avoid unnecessary cruelty to animals, even fish. (Mosquitoes are a whole different topic though!)
Animal Lover April 07, 2012 at 08:09 PM
You have to give respect to receive it... It goes both ways. I don't love animals more than people. I believe we are all equal. The only difference is animals cannot speak for themselves so we have to stand up for them like we would for small children.
Ryan April 21, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Fish do not have pain receptors in their mouths, otherwise they wouldn't be able to eat. You have to consider the diet of many fish - crayfish, other fish, frogs, small mammals & birds - all of those put up a struggle, and the things like crayfish, smaller fish, birds, and small mammals have claws & spines.
Ryan April 21, 2012 at 09:40 PM
That's ridiculous. Animals are not equal to humans. Equality does not exist in the natural world, otherwise there would no competition or survival of the fittest. I believe in animal welfare, but not animal rights.


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