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23 June 1999 Issue
Fish And Pain

The Medway report, published in 1980 and sponsored by the RSPCA, proved
that all vertebrates, warm or cold blooded, are capable of experiencing pain.
The scientists involved in compiling the report exposed the farcical idea that
fishing is humane, to be utter rubbish. In fact Dr. McWilliams, fish biologist and
member of the National Association of Specialist Anglers, even admitted,
''avoiding subjecting fish to some degree of stress when fishing is impossible."
The pure barbarity of angling becomes clear on examining the process of
hooking, playing and landing a fish. A fish is deceived into impaling itself on a
(usually) barbed hook, resulting in the infliction of an injury. The angler may then
"play" the fish in order to tire it and allow it to be landed. On leaving the water, a
fish is unable to extract oxygen from the air and is subjected to extreme stress.
During the handling process, a protective mucous covering which provides the
creatures waterproofing and protects it from infections, is damaged. If a fish has
swallowed the hook, the hook's retrieval is very difficult, the suffering is prolonged
and is likely to result in damage to the fish's gut and subsequently death.

The moment the fish leaves the water, it enters an alien environment in which it
is ill-equipped to cope. The gills collapse and breathing is virtually impossible.
After oxygen is exhausted from the bloodstream, bleeding may occur from the
gills. Combined with the trauma of capture and handling, considerable stress is
inflicted. Following return to the water, an exhausted fish may remain motionless
for a long period, during which it is at risk from predators and environmental
damage.

People who say that it cannot be proven beyond doubt that fish can feel pain,
must also admit that the same can be said of any animal other than humans.
Only the latter can report in words the sensations experienced. However,
society at large does not accept that the reactions and squeals of warm-blooded
animals are purely mechanical. Based on our knowledge of fish biology, there is
no logical reason why this widely-held belief should not be extended to include
fish.

It has been convenient for anglers that fish have been considered in the past not
to feel pain. The Medway report noted that the methods used in angling "if
performed in a laboratory on unanaesthetised fish, without license, would very
probably be in contravention of the (l876 cruelty to animals) act.." Incredible for
an act created by vivisectors, not renowned for their compassion for living
creatures!

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