April 2, 2012

“Do you eat fish then?”

When telling people I’m a vegan I have come across the same question disturbingly many times; “do you eat fish then?” – (FYI there is different types of vegetarians. People who include fish and other seafood into their diets are called pesco-vegetarians)
To me this is shocking and confusing for fish is meat as much as any other meat. Why would it not be!? That is MY question. Is it because fishes live under water? Or do people see them as less significant living creature than pigs, chickens, cows or any other animals they eat and which live on the ground? For creatures that live are called animals but creatures that live under water are called seafood and shellfish. And that’s kind of racist isn’t it? They cannot live above it like we cannot live under it. For they live under water they are seen somehow more insignificant than some other living, breathing creatures who live on the ground.

Thinking of fishing, hooks and impaling lip with a sharp object (for example hook/needle), my lip piercing came into my mind and I instantly thought it as an example of when fish takes the bait and the sharp hook pierces its lip and how much it will hurt the fish – and to me it hurt like hell. If someone would have put a hook through it, trying to yank me somewhere with force I would be in pure and cruel pain.

When you are young and first learn about fishing, it occurs to every single child that it MUST hurt when the hook goes into the fish’s lip! The disturbing crunch-like sound when the hook is being pulled out from the fish’s lip made me felt bad – and I do not try to seem hypocrite for I have been fishing when I was a kid but I do now feel awful about it (and even then in some level). I never did like to “keep” the fish I rarely (and unfortunately) caught and even releasing them, I was thinking about the fish having a hole in their mouth and wondering if they heal and how long will they suffer before it? I don’t understand how I could’ve done that for I always felt bad for the fish and I never could kill one with my own hands. And felt horrible in every way when someone were killing them as the fishes were trying to catch a breath but they couldn’t for they were out of the water. Later on I stopped fishing at all and just had to look while other people fished and I remember when someone caught a salmon they yanked it out from its comfortable surroundings and were pounding its neck with a log trying to break its neck, killing it “fast” – they never, ever succeeded at the first try. It was never that fast they wanted to believe…

Just like dogs, cats, and humans, fish do feel pain. Scientists who study pain are in complete agreement that the fish pain response is basically identical to the pain response system in mammals and birds. Fishes are without any legal protection from cruel treatment – before they die they are impaled, suffocated, crushed OR sliced open and gutted all while they're fully conscious.

We are not talking about fishing from the dock or rowing boat – fishing is massive and hurts other animals too, like sharks, whales, seals, sea turtles, other non-target fish and even birds who get tangled in nets and hooked by long-lines. These unfortunate creatures are termed "bycatch" and are thrown overboard and they slowly bleed to death in the water or fall victim to swarming birds.

Whether the fish are raised on aquafarms, caught in the ocean by giant nets or long-lines, or hooked at the end of a fishing line, eating them supports cruelty to animals.

The U.S. fish industry slaughters more than 6 billion (just even think about that number) fish each year, and sport fishing and angling kill another 245 million animals annually.

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