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:

http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0506-hance_fishpain.html

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….

Fish Pedicures — Who Knew?

The Florida Board of Cosmetology has taken a stand against fish pedicures.  Now, I know what you may be thinking — fish don’t have feet and even if they did, why would the Cosmetology Board want to prohibit their proper care and grooming?  Alas, fish pedicures are something different entirely.  They consist of humans sticking their feet into a small pool of water stocked with fish.  The fish then eat the dead skin off the humans’ feet.  In banning the procedure, Florida joins Massachusetts, Texas, Washington, New Hampshire and others.  Apparently, there is some concern over disinfecting the pool.

To my eyes, this story has some interesting subtext.  While there is an undeniable grossness factor that might make one instinctively support such a ban, anyone who has ever waded in a pond filled with fish knows that certain fish like feet (and dead skin).  The underlying issue here is not that fish eat dead skin but rather that, in this context, eating dead skin is all they can do.  The fish live their lives in a small pool, acting as living cuticle nippers in the service of human vanity.

So, for whatever reason, I’m glad it’s no longer permitted in Florida.  Hat tip to Florida Animal Law for breaking the story.  And here‘s a good read on the same issue in New Hampshire.

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