Fish Feel Pain! Call CNN!

I Can't Believe Somebody Got Paid for This

In April of this year, scientists in the UK announced a startling discovery: fish can feel pain. Stay with me here: fish can feel pain. Those of you who thought the writhing, spine-snapping movement they make as you yank them from the water on sharp metal barbs was an expression of tail-wagging glee, take note.

To make matters worse, this study came out a scant two months after a study claiming that fish lacked the necessary brain power to feel pain.

Not being a brilliant scientist myself, I needed to spend some time determining why this was a question that needed answering. It appears to be a pivotal issue in the ongoing war between the recreational fishing community (“anglers”), and animal rights activists (“crazy people”). The crazy people seem to think that if only the anglers knew that fish felt pain, they would burst into tears at the horror of their actions and throw down their rods. This line of reasoning– not their dedication to animals– is why I call them crazy people.

Hey PETA, I have some bad news: We don’t care. Fishing is a cherished ritual in the lives of men, a gender in dire need of rites of passage. Fishing speaks to the primal, hunting side of all (non-crazy) people, male and female alike. Fishing is a relaxing pastime while you’re waiting on the boat, beer in hand. Fishing is exciting when you get that first strike. It is an adrenaline rush while you fight the marvellous creature. And it is glorious when you finally haul its beautiful shape into the boat. The fact that fish are magically delicious is nature’s way of saying, “play ball!”

Now I’m not talking about catch-and-release sport fishing. That’s cruel. If you’re going to fish, eat what you catch. To draw a parallel, catch-and-release is like stunning cattle in the field, then not slaughtering them. Then going back out into the field the next day and stunning them again.

The sad truth is that sooner or later, every animal must meet its maker. Does being caught and eaten by a fisherman hurt more than being caught and eaten by a larger fish? The responsible fisherman hooks the fish, gets it into the boat quickly, then kills it with a sharp blow to the head. A larger fish generally swallows its prey whole, but regardless, its victim dies of asphyxiation or severe trauma, all while being digested alive. If you were the fish, what would you choose?

Teaching our children how to catch, clean and prepare wild animals as food isn’t something we should be discouraging. I’d argue that the surest way to instill a sense of respect for the environment into future generations is to get their hands filthy with the honest reality of hunting, death and survival. You don’t need to look any further than the aboriginal cultures across the globe to see the undeniable link between respect for the earth and hunting.

What bugs me the most about these studies is what they say about our society. Do you think either of these studies cost less than half a million dollars? How many dozens of people were involved in these, and similar studies at other facilities? No wonder we’re not curing any diseases!

I can only hope that funding was provided privately, most likely by the British Anglers Society and PETA, respectively. In which case I’d be bitter that any of it actually made headlines.

The upside is that none of these scientists will ever impress the opposite sex by telling them what they’ve been up to lately. After all, anyone who spends close to a decade in school only to dedicate their brilliance and effort to such an obvious question shouldn’t be reproducing.

I mean, c’mon.

Ed’s Note: I think we can file this one under “rant.” And really, he loves animals. As in “yummy yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy.”

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