Who is the invasive one?
An Environmental Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM Zahava Katz-Perlish, ImAnAnimalToo.com
April 2020

Next time you’re told that a certain species is destructive and should be eliminated, please think about the big picture and understand who’s the real threat to the planet. To help in a big way, the answer is not killing more animals, but the opposite. Go vegan, today, please.

Sue Coe
Nine Fish with One Eye Each - 2010 Sue Coe, Graphic Witness

PBS NewsHour is a TV program I rarely miss. I consider their reporting reliable and non-sensational. However, recently they’ve reported obsessively about the Asian carp as an “invasive” species in the Great Lakes, and suggested that eating the fish is a good solution. A few friends asked for my opinion on the topic. Should we eat carp to help save the Great Lakes? Here’s a spoiler alert: no.

Let me tell you from the get-go, this blog post isn’t about Asian carp. It’s about any species that the government and media tell us is invasive and harmful to the environment. And, oh yes, the animals should be killed and we ought to feel good about using them for food, fur, and whatnot.

The carp is a fish, and fishes, like birds and mammals, are sentient. Fish can feel and think, they have self awareness and like to be petted. And yet we treat them as if they were inanimate objects. Each year humans kill an estimated 0.97-2.74 trillion fish. They die a painful and lengthy death by asphyxiation and/or live gutting. The purpose of this large scale carnage is one, satisfying human taste buds. If you think that eating fish in a restaurant in Italy sounds romantic, read The Guardian article titled: “’Horrific’ footage reveals fish suffocating to death on industrial farms in Italy”.

Killing and causing suffering to sentient beings have moral implications. I view fish and all nonhuman animals as equal in their right to live. They’re entitled to be free from cruelty, exploitation and manipulation. Hence, I don’t eat them, not even when the media and federal agencies promote the notion that they’re destructive to the environment.

Interestingly enough, in its reports, PBS did not explain how the Asian carp arrived to the Great Lakes in the first place. Nor did the reports dive deep into what makes the fish “invasive”, and a “menace”. And, why governmental agencies, which nowadays aren’t known to support environmental causes, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this issue.

To answer some of the above questions I did some research. Like many other “invasive” animals, a few carp species were imported to the U.S. They were introduced to catfish fisheries in the South to clear the weeds and parasites so catfish were healthier and “tastier”. From there, they escaped and through rivers and manmade tunnels, entered the Great Lakes.

What makes the carp a problem? One issue according to PBS is that the fish “are infamous for their wild jumping when startled by loud sounds, making boating in infested waters dangerous.” (I can’t help but intervene here and say how inappropriate it is to use the words “infamous” and “infested” when referring to sentient creatures who want to live). According to the University of Minnesota website: “While searching for food, carp burrow into lake sediments and in the process they uproot aquatic vegetation, increasing water turbidity and releasing large quantities of sediment-bound nutrients.“ And the impact is, according to the same website: “This disruption affects native fish and waterfowl and could result in diminished recreational and commercial fishing opportunities in the region.” Notice the word “opportunities”.

In the Great Lakes, recreational boating is a $16 billion a year industry and recreational and commercial fishing is $7 billion. The federal government and states don’t use hundreds of millions of dollars to protect plants and wildlife that may be harmed by the carp’s eating habits. They spend that kind of money when there is a financial impact to commerce.

Ironically, the two industries that blame fish for upsetting the Great Lakes ecosystem, use high speed fossil fuel powered boats which cause major damage to the aquatic environment. They disturb fish and other wildlife, generate water pollution and turbidity, destroy aquatic plants, cause shoreline erosion which lowers water quality, and literally cut some animals to shreds.

Marketing consumption of fish as a solution to preserve ecosystems is adding insult to injury. Humans are fishing the oceans and lakes to extinction, killing not only fish, but other marine animals as well. Hundreds of sea lions are killed legally, and illegally. Sea birds such as gulls and cormorants aren’t spared either. All in the name of “protecting” fish so people can catch and eat them. And that’s not all, each year hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, seals, sea turtles and other animals, referred to as bycatch, are caught and killed in fishing gear. Humans interfering with nature, eradicating trillions of sentient and intelligent beings, and damaging marine habitats, while calling other animals destructive and invasive, is a pathetic joke.

The Asian carp is only one example of changing ecosystems by importing non-native species for humans’ benefit. Nutrias were imported to the U.S. in the late 19th century for their fur. They were bred and caged in farms, and when the fur industry collapsed, they were released into the wild. They’ve been deemed “invasive” ever since and the public was encouraged to kill them. The fashion industry with the help of the media tried to convince us that, as the New York Times (NYT) phrased it, it’s “socially acceptable and environmentally friendly” to wear their fur. I find it fascinating that the NYT, fashion designers and hunters, support a common cause – ending the lives of sentient beings for money.

On my recent few visits to Israel I noticed a new beautiful emerald colored bird. There seemed to be more and more of them every year. Those, I’ve learned, are called rose-ringed parakeets. They were captured in the wild and imported to Europe and Israel to be used as caged birds mostly in people’s homes. Some escaped or were released and have been multiplying ever since, and are considered an economic problem because they eat crops.

All non-native animals who’re thought of as a threat to wildlife were removed from their native habitats, for pleasure and profit. When circumstances changed and their usefulness had ended, they’ve become a problem for humans and sometimes to other living beings. However, those non-native animals are blameless, after all they did not chose to be snatched from their families and societies and move into a new surrounding to become fur, food or entertainment. In their new habitat they do what they know best, live.

Let’s not forget that we’ve wiped out more animals and plants than any other nonhuman animal. Humanity represents 0.01% of all living beings, yet it has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals, 15% of all fish and half of plants. The invasiveness and aggressiveness of any other species are minuscule in contrast with those of humanity. The harm that any nonhuman animal may cause to their environment is dwarfed in comparison to ours.

The greatest threat to biodiversity is habitat loss, caused by humans. Much of the damage to our planet is brought on by animal agriculture. It is the leading cause of biodiversity loss, deforestation, water shortage and land pollution, and it uses more than 70% of agricultural land. Raising animals (“humane”, “free-range”, “grass fed”, or not) for meat, eggs and milk is a major source of emissions, greater than all transportation combined. On the other hand, eating a vegan diet is the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact on earth, according to a recent study published in the journal Science.

Next time you’re told that a certain species is destructive and should be eliminated, please think about the big picture and understand who’s the real threat to the planet. To help in a big way, the answer is not killing more animals, but the opposite. Go vegan, today, please! 

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