Stop the Pain Game

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Stop the Pain Game

By Jenny Moxham
August 6th, 2009
Published in Geelong Advertiser

I'M sure most Australians would agree that killing whales is barbaric, and many go whale watching simply for the thrill of catching a glimpse of one these giants of the deep.

Anglesea surfer Kaine Hazle was ecstatic last Thursday after having had a close and personal encounter with a whale at Winkipop and even our government demonstrates good will towards these sea creatures by enforcing laws that forbid boats, aircraft and people from disturbing them.

But what about those other creatures of the deep - fish? Why are there no similar feelings of good-will towards them?

After all, they too are intelligent, good-natured, curious and sensitive creatures.

Dr. Culum Brown, a specialist in fish behavior from Macquarie University in NSW says: ``Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of higher vertebrates including non-human primates.''

Perhaps a more pertinent fact is that they feel pain.

Cambridge University scientist Donald Broom says, ``The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.''

Clearly, if fish can feel pain, angling can no longer be regarded as a non-cruel sport.

One might expect that, armed with this knowledge, our government might show a tad more consideration for fish, but the reverse is true.

The Brumby Government is, in fact, spending $3.2 million of tax-payers' money on promoting angling as a ``fun and healthy outdoor activity for the entire family''.

To this end, regular Free Family Fishing events are staged where children as young as four are lured into attending workshops. To encourage the little ones, there are free give-aways, prizes and rods provided.

To make sure that as many children as possible experience the ``fun'' of impaling and suffocating a fish, many hundreds of large, farm raised fish are deposited at the venue on the day.

The farms from which these fish come are much like the factory farms in which broiler chickens, battery hens and pigs are reared. Fish are tightly confined in filthy enclosures, and many suffer from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries.

They spend their lives constantly bumping against each other and the sides of their cage thus, when they are finally taken from these farms and released into a lake it must feel like heaven.

Much the same as when a battery hen is rescued and allowed to walk around for the first time in her life.

How heartless, then, to deliberately deposit these abused and vulnerable creatures in a place where a fishing event is to be held.

How cruel to give them their first taste of freedom at a location where they will be cunningly tricked into swallowing a barbed hook then dragged, suffocating, from the water.

Imagine the agony you would experience, swinging from a metal hook that was deeply imbedded in the roof of your mouth. Well, it's exactly the same for them.

Professor Bill Runciman of Adelaide University, says fishing constitutes the greatest source of confused thinking and inconsistency on earth with respect to pain.

People, he says, get very excited about dolphins but at the same time there are fishing competitions at which thousands of people snare fish with hooks and allow them to asphyxiate.

Surely it's time we acknowledged the fact that all the creatures of the deep are equally worthy of our compassion and consideration.

Jenny Moxham is an animal activist.

See the PDF of this newspaper article.

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