Why are they often the last living beings vegetarians give up eating? Maybe it’s their cold-blooded scaliness or their lack of cuteness (to some). I mean, fish are not exactly cuddly, are they? Perhaps some people still doubt their ability to feel pain (despite many scientists stating that they do feel pain).
It certainly appears to be harder for people to relate to fish, as they are so physiologically different from us. They do not have facial expressions for one thing. But is being different a reason to care less?
I too was once a “fish ‘n’ chip-ocrite”. I called myself a ‘vegetarian’ but occasionally ate fish. Looking back, I did feel a sense of guilt, but for some reason fish seemed like a more ethical choice than meat at that time. Why? I have no idea. Maybe, like many, I reasoned that fish didn’t feel pain or that they had a great life in the ocean and weren’t farmed (or so I thought). Maybe I reasoned with myself that they were not brutally killed, but rather pulled out of the ocean. Little did I know that fish DO feel pain, ARE farmed intensively and suffocate on land as we would drown under water. What right do we have to do that to another being?
I never could watch someone fishing and not feel terrible for the poor, struggling creature on the end of the line who, up until a moment ago, was going about their life peacefully. Nor could I tuck into a whole fish complete with eyes looking up at me from my dinner plate. So why was I still eating fish?
Even now, as a vegan who has respect for all beings, there is still something slightly more shocking (to me) about hunting and shooting than fishing. I feel ashamed to admit this, as logically it makes no sense, but I wonder how many people can relate to this. Maybe it’s because fishing can seem like a peaceful pastime whereas hunting seems more brutal and bloodthirsty and more about killing for fun? Perhaps when we think of fishing we are imagining fish in abundance and not the targeting of one solitary animal?
The fact is, fish DO suffer and I believe they have every right to be here on the planet with us, living their life free of human-inflicted pain. Is it right that we are inadvertently teaching children that fish don’t matter every time we take them fishing?
“To examine whether something is ‘humane’ first determine whether you would want it done to you.” ~ Andrea Kladar
So what about the people who catch fish and put them back?
I wonder how they would feel about being hooked out of their beds at night by a giant spear through the mouth, temporarily suffocated then thrown back into bed. Yes, I’m sure they would go right back into a peaceful, dreamless sleep. NOT.
How do we ‘tackle’ the subject of fishing – the most commonly accepted type of hunting there is? A popular Kiwi pastime. A fun, family activity! Dare I even go there? Well I’m going to. For the fish! Someone has to.
Here is an inspiring, thought-provoking, two-minute movie about seeing fishing from a different perspective:
So please spare a thought for our slippery, scaled friends.
And remember, fish are not plants, so vegetarians should steer well clear.
For plenty of yummy fish-free recipes check out our Go Veg recipe page.
Laura Gentle, SAFE national volunteer coordinator