Do Fish Feel Pain?

The anti-fishing brigade make much noise about their belief that fish feel pain, therefore it is unconscionable that anglers be allowed to fish for fish. One of their favourite ‘posters’ is a photo of a dog being pulled with a hook through its lip. The caption reads “you would not do this to a dog, why do it to a fish”. I have to admit it is a very strong image and message, but what are they really selling, what is hidden behind the message.

It is important to realise that all the major anti-fshing organisations, spear-headed by P.E.T.A, attack all forms of fishing, not just recreational. A quick trip to Fishing Hurts (a PETA site) will reveal the true intention. There is every conceivable reason to stop fishing and stop eating fish – true, false and highly questionable.

This site reveals the underlying truth about PETA and it’s friends prime objective; that truth is they want the killing and consumption of all animals, wild and domesticated stopped, and for all humanity to become vegetarian.

Now these people fully realise that trying to sell that message to a world of humans that devours and has devoured its neighbouring animals since man staggered upright on two legs is not going to get any sort of following anytime soon. So much better to pick off targets that are easier to hang a hook into – pun definitely intended. Go for fishing, a hook hanging out of a fishes jaw has pulling power.

So at last back to fishing and do fish feel pain? The short answer is almost certainly yes. It may not be pain as a human may know it but some kind of pain none-the-less. Most animals have a built in system for identifying when a part of their body is injured – the word pain probably covers that system.

But just as humans have parts of their bodies not subject to pain stimuli such as finger and toe nails, and lowered pain thresholds in other parts of our bodies, such as the soles of the feet, the same is true of fish.

The fish most often sought by fishermen are predators, who consume other fish and aquatic life. Most of these fish have mouth parts immune to what we call pain to allow for the pricks and penetration of spikes, spines, shells, bones…which forms a significant part of their daily life. Sticking a hook into a fishes mouth probably has about the same effect on the fish as crunching on the spines of a sea urchin.

But even if this is true, will it hold any water in an argument with PETA and it’s kin? Of course not – any counter argument does not matter to PETA because they do not need to argue – dogma is an end in itself. It is that end, the total denial of man’s heritage that is to them some kind of nirvana. Like any other zealot; religious, political or racial there is no argument. “A fanatic is one who having lost sight of their objective, re-doubles their efforts”.

Ultimately I believe that dogma driven organisations such as PETA will fall over their own feet; to propound a way of life that denies the basic make-up of our human-ness, good and bad, is doomed to fail.