Fish Feel Pain; Now What?

fishhookGuest blogger: Elaine Hsaio

One of the most common arguments for not eating meat is animal suffering, but this rationale all too often stops short at recognizing the pain of other beings.  Common example: pescatarianism.  Fish don’t feel pain or experience suffering, so we can continue to eat fish despite having given up meat because big brown cow eyes and screaming pigs break our hearts.  A recent study published by Applied Animal Behaviour Science, indicates that not only do fish feel pain, but physical experiences of pain actually alter their future behaviors:

So, if fish feel pain, does that change things?

Maybe a few pescatarians might reconsider their position, but those looking to continue justifying their dietary choices tend to respond with the question – What about plants, do they feel pain?  Touche, so become a Jain.  More power to you if you have that kind of discipline and are lucky enough to live in an environment that’s still healthy enough to sustain you.  Or can transcend geopolitical borders to follow migratory seasonal harvests, but few on this planet hold such golden passports.

So if that’s too difficult, then consider what’s necessary.  From what I understand, homo sapiens have (one of) the most diverse diets on this planet (we can consume a greater variety of things than most other species for our energy and subsistence).  And supposedly we have consciousness, civilization and free(ish) will.  So, I can choose what to subsist off of….and I know that I can obtain my sustenance – vitamins, proteins, all that good stuff – from a solely flora-based diet.  Not true of a fauna-based diet.  Oftentimes, it is also possible to harvest from plants in a way that you can’t from animals, i.e. you can take parts without killing the whole.  Many of those parts would separate of their own means anyway, maybe to nourish the Earth….or maybe to nourish me.

Either way, plant or animal, food needs to be rethought….we are over 6.7 billion mouths to feed and growing.  Malthus bodes mal….

3 Responses

  1. Elaine,

    I enjoyed your thoughts. Thank you for publicizing them.

    Though you’re most likely well versed on the subject, you may be interested (perhaps find value) in a recent post of mine that offers a slightly different perspective than the one you presented (see reference A below). Be sure to visit the two references that follow the ‘Fish Is Not a Health Food’ title as I think you’ll enjoy them. Also, there’s an interesting study posted on PubMed entitled, ‘Expanding the moral circle: farmed fish as objects of moral concern’ (see reference B below). Even though the article, science aside, is essentially welfarist-based, it nonetheless deserves a read.

    Be Well.



  2. Could I put this link here. Though not on fish it relates to the inflicting of pain and suffering.

    As the traps are Chinese I have to assume the traps are on sale globally.

    My thanks

    Celtic Lion

  3. Yes, a thought proviking post (love the use of pescatarianism.
    But the argument that makes absolute sense is, and I quote:
    “… we are over 6.7 billion mouths to feed and growing. Malthus bodes mal….”

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