Is Fishing Cruel?

Humans have long considered fish to be unintelligent creatures with little awareness and incapable of feeling pain. In most countries 'fishing' is considered to be a 'good sport' for adults as well as children. Being a commercial fisherman is thought to be a noble profession, despite that fact that commercial fishing is destroying the oceans.

What if fish were in reality intelligent creatures that not only felt pain but also had a sense of self and felt emotions? Would we still be so eager to kill and eat fish if we knew that they were not so different than us?

If a fisherman could be a fish for a day it is likely that his attitudes would change very quickly.

Science is finally starting to catch up to reality and is recognizing that fish are intelligent and sensitive creatures. Numerous studies at Universities have shown that despite their small brains fish do feel pain, are actually quite smart and do have emotional and social awareness.

Dr. Theresa Burt de Perera studied blind Mexican cave fish and found that the fish did more than merely avoid bumping into objects in their tank. They built a detailed map of their surroundings, memorizing the obstacles. Once stored in their brains, the fish used their "mental map" to spot changes in the obstacles around them - something beyond even hamsters.

Dr. Burt de Perera says that fish are underestimated. "The public perception of them is that they are pea-brained numbskulls that can't remember things for more than a few seconds. We're now finding that they are very capable of learning and remembering, and possess a range of cognitive skills that would surprise many people," she remarked in a recent interview.

When Dr. Culum Brown was at the University of Edinburgh found that Australian crimson spotted rainbowfish, which learned to escape from a net in their tank, remembered how they did it 11 months later which is equivalent to a human recalling a lesson learned 40 years ago.

For more information about Dr. Brown's research visit:

Dr. Phil Gee at the University of Plymouth showed that fish can learn to distinguish between different shapes, colors and sounds and can tell time. In his research goldfish were placed in a bowl in which they were fed only when they pressed a lever. The fish rapidly learned that pressing the lever produced a food reward. Once the fish were trained to press the lever, researchers set up the lever to work for just one hour a day. The fish soon became wise to this, and learned to press the lever at the same time every day. The activity of the fish around the lever increased enormously just before the set hour when their food was dispensed. If no food came out, they stopped pressing the lever when the hour was up. This demonstrates that the goldfish not only had an awareness of time but also remembered their prior experience and knew that there was no point to keep pressing the lever.

This new research shows that the learning abilities of fish are comparable to land vertebrates and the processes of learning are strikingly similar to those of other vertebrates.

Aquarists knew all of this long ago because they observe their fish and care for them on a daily basis. Most serious aquarists develop bonds with their fish and quickly realize that fish are sensitive and intelligent creatures.

Dr. Dean Pomerleau and his son Kyle run a school to teach aquarium fish tricks. In the process they have learned just how smart fish really are.

The have trained a pet goldfish to "carry" a football, "shoot" a soccer ball into a net and even "dance" the limbo.

There are over 27,000 known species of fish, more than all the other vertebrates combined. Fish are also the most ancient of the major vertebrate groups. The fish world is substantially larger and more complex than the world of land-dwellers.

Humans are not always the most clever species. In an experiment conducted at the University of Cologne in 1984, various hungry animals were required to perform a simple response in order to receive food. Mammals pressed a lever, birds pecked a disc and fish pushed a rod. Human infants took 28 attempts, whereas rabbits only took 24, chickens took 10, koi carp took 4 and bees took only 2 attempts before learning the connection. To be a true comparison of species intelligence the study should have included adult humans as well, however, it does show that animals and insects are more intelligent than we might suppose.

Fish, like many of Earth's creatures, are endangered from human activity. Species are becoming extinct before we even discover them and vast tracts of the Ocean are becoming dead zones. The rape of the oceans in pursuit of fish not only impacts fish populations but entire eco-systems.

If a being is intelligent and feels pain is it wrong to torture it for sport as in fishing? Is it wrong to kill it and eat it if one's own survival isn't dependent upon it?

An image of a Crappie Fish
Fish - aware, sensitive and intelligent

Do humans have the right to destroy other species and the planet?

The human consumption of fish is the greatest cause of the destruction of the oceans. If you buy fish or other sea creatures to eat you are directly responsible for the damage caused by your purchase.

There is no nutritional requirement in the human diet for sea-creatures. There is no requirement for humans to eat any animal. We can be perfectly healthy on a diet of fruits, nuts and vegetables.

If you would like to demonstrate your intelligence, simply stop eating fish and other sentient beings. The single most important thing you can do for yourself and the planet is to use your big brain and adopt the diet your body was intended for - you will improve your health and save countless harm and suffering to other beings.

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By Bill Phillips