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23 April 2000 Issue
Excuses For Fishing

* Fish don't feel pain

Fish have a complex nervous system and all the sensory organs necessary for the sensation of pain. It's therefore logical to assume that they do feel pain.

A three year investigation by a panel of scientists and representatives from angling and shooting organizations ( the Medway Report) concluded that fish, like other vertebrates are capable of suffering.

* Some points concerning fishing

If a fish is not landed quickly it can become exhausted, fish muscle takes a long time to recover and an exhausted fish may be virtually unable to move for several hours.

Once out of the water, the change in air pressure can lead to bleeding from the gills. Handling the fish can damage its delicate outer skin of mucus making it vulnerable to disease causing micro-organisms.

Fish kept in crowded keep nets are susceptible to the spread of disease, aggression from other fish and suffocation caused by the slow diffusion of gasses in the water.

All this is in addition to the suffering caused by being dragged out of the water in the first place by a (usually) barbed hook which is sometimes (fatally) swallowed.

* Most anglers only do it for relaxation

Surely people can find a way to relax without causing the suffering and death of others?

* Most of the fish get put back

But it is catching them in the first place that causes them suffering

* Fish are free-range

Why should a free-range animal be any more deserving of an unnecessary death than any other animal? The suggestion that individuals should pay for their freedom with their lives is moral nonsense. All animals should be free and we have no right to deprive them of that freedom or their lives for such trivial reasons as money, the taste of their flesh or the pursuit of 'sport'.

* Some points concerning fish slaughter

UK fishing vessels alone catch 500,000 tons of fish every year and there are no specific regulations governing their slaughter.

They die of shock, asphyxiation, crushing by the weight of the catch and freezing on ice bedding. Many, like cod, haddock, plaice, skate and sole can still be alive when landed and gutted. Eels are killed by burying in salt (it takes 2 hours) or are chopped into pieces and boiled.

Farmed fish such as salmon and trout are bled to death with or without stunning. Trout are starved for 3-6 days beforehand and may simply to taken from the water and packed in ice for transport to the market, taking up to 14 minutes to die.

* Fish is good for you

The North Sea. where 40% of our fish is caught, has become so polluted that some fishermen now wear protective face masks to prevent the rashes and other skin disorders that contact with the water can cause.

Moderate amounts of fish from unpolluted waters (if there are any) are undoubtedly good for you. But there are three things to remember here: firstly, it has been clearly established that fish can and do suffer when they are caught, secondly, fishing has already had a disastrous effect on the environment (fish stocks are now at their lowest level ever); and thirdly, all benefits of eating fish can be easily obtained from a vegan diet. The ethical choice is clear.

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