Animal Profile: Be Kind to Fish


December 17, 2012

Care of Bonnie Shulman

Photo care of Farm Sanctuary and Cindy Seigle

Since the dawn of time people have been catching and eating fish without giving the fish a second thought, as though they were inanimate objects, as though being drowned in air was not a big deal to the fish. All that desperate flapping of their fins onboard fishing boats – that doesn’t mean a thing to many people.

But now, the fish are talking back with more than just their fins. Their voices, mute for thousands of years, are being channelled by Peter Singer, renowned Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. If you haven’t read his essay, “If Fish Could Scream”, then you really should. You can find it here. His thesis is that there is no humane slaughter requirement for wild fish caught and killed at sea, nor for farmed fish. The thing is, humans catch and kill over two trillion fish a year, dumping them on board trawler boats where they suffocate, or impaling them on live-bait hooks.

And here’s where it gets really ugly, as if that number wasn’t bad enough. Nervous systems of fish are sufficiently similar to those of birds and mammals to suggest that they feel pain and are capable of suffering. In laboratories, fish learn to avoid unpleasant experiences, like electric shocks. And painkillers reduce the symptoms of pain that they would otherwise show.

So the next time someone tells you to eat fish, whether it be your mom or TV’s Dr. Oz, tell them that you can get your cholesterol-reducing omega-3 fatty acids from plant-based sources, which you can find on the Vegetarian Nutrition page of You can be healthy and kind at the same time.

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