Animal Writes
From 10 November 2002 Issue

This Story Sounds Fishy to Me
By Greg Lawson - [email protected]

When we mention the ten billion animals that die every year in the US for our dinner plates or the 50 billion that are killed world wide each year for human feed, we are neglecting to mention the fish. Aquatic life forms are not included in that total because they are impossible to count as individuals; instead they are measured in tons, close to 75 million tons annually.

This bothers me. When a body count is measured by weight instead of by individuals, it seems rather callous.

Many years ago I was a pesco-vegetarian during the early part of my journey to veganism. I remember the excuses I used, that fish were low on some arbitrary scale of intelligence or ability to feel, that eating fish didn't have the same disastrous effects on the environment that the factory farming of cows, pigs and chickens have.

Later I learned that the oceans of the world have been overfished. Numerous species are gone now and many species teeter on the brink of extinction. All of the world's major fisheries have either reached or exceeded their limits. As a result, the farming of fish has become a fast growing industry. Today, nearly one quarter of the world's catch of fish is used to feed farm animals including farmed fish. The most common species farmed are trout, salmon and carp.

In order to save the decreasing supply of wild fish, and to save money, scientists in England have just developed a chemical that makes farmed fish into vegetarians. I'd like to get my hands on that chemical, I have a few friends who could use a dose.

Maybe turning farmed fish into vegetarians will save some of the wild fish stocks, but it seems a silly half solution. Turning people into vegetarians would save a lot more. Why aren't these scientists working on a chemical for humans?

The British scientists say the chemical is a naturally occurring pheromone and that it is unlikely to adversely affect their health. I never trust scientists who use words like "unlikely."

Farmed fish have many of the same problems other farmed animals have. Antibiotics are used to promote growth and this can result in an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A variety of chemicals are used as disinfectants for equipment and for pest control in the tanks. Residues can be passed on to humans who eat these fish.

There is as much cruelty in the farming of fish as there is on any other factory farm. Please don't be a part of the cruelty. The most important step that any individual can take for all animals and for the environment is to go vegan.

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