Fish and Sea Animals
Billions of fish and other sea life are killed every year for food. Despite the fact that these animals have nervous systems similar to our own and can feel pain, they are usually slaughtered without any regard for their welfare and denied even the basic rights of protection afforded to land animals who are raised for food. As a result, fish suffer horribly in nets, at the end of hooks and on the decks of fishing boats, suffocating slowly or being cut open while still conscious.
There’s also a grave environmental cost to humans’ appetite for fish and seafood, as fishing vessels decimate the world’s oceans, leaving them empty, lifeless and on the brink of ecological collapse.
Friends, Not Food
Just because they look different from us and have scales instead of skin and gills instead of lungs, fish are often misunderstood. But we share many things in common with the animals who live underwater – for example, they often live in complex social groups, have distinct personalities, are able to learn and remember new information, develop profound personal relationships and experience pain and fear when harmed. They show affection by rubbing against each other and communicate using a range of low-frequency sounds.
Leading scientists are in agreement that fish feel pain. As biologist Victoria Braithwaite writes, “there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals” – a conclusion hardly surprising to anyone who has seen a fish struggling and fighting for his or her life when pulled from the water.
Murder Without Mercy
Fishers will toss the fish they’ve caught into piles of ice on deck to slowly asphyxiate, freeze or be crushed to death – a horribly cruel and drawn-out way to die for these cold-blooded animals. Scientists estimate that it can take up to 15 minutes before they lose consciousness. Other fish have their gills cut or throats and bellies sliced open while they’re still alive on decks awash with blood.
Fish who are pulled up from deep waters often suffer from rapid decompression, which can rupture their swim bladders, pop out their eyes or force their internal organs out through their mouths. And in catch-and-release fishing, up to 43 per cent of fish don’t survive after the trauma of being impaled on a hook and hoisted out of their natural environment.
Plenty More Fish in the Sea?
Because humans drag fish out of the sea by the billions, numbers of fish are dwindling drastically, and many species are close to extinction. Commercial fishing vessels also do untold damage to the marine environment. Massive trawlers with nets the size of football fields destroy coral and marine plants on the seabed and scoop up all life in their path, including sea urchins, dolphins, crabs, turtles and seals. In long-line fishing, ships unreel lines that are up to 75 miles long, bristling with deadly, baited hooks. Giant drift nets are invisible to most fish and hang in the water as a “wall of death” that ensnares every animal who swims into them.
Nearly 50 per cent of fish consumed in Britain come from farms, where, like all factory-farmed animals, they endure intense confinement, filthy conditions, mistreatment and high levels of disease and parasites such as sea lice. Kept in underwater cages, fish never have the chance to swim freely or exercise their natural instincts, such as salmon’s powerful urge to migrate upstream each year. And they may be killed by being bludgeoned with a bat or having their gills cut without stunning.
Fish farmers lace fish feed with chemicals and antibiotics in an attempt to counteract the harmful effects of severe crowding and with drugs that unnaturally accelerate growth. These substances harm the fish themselves, the humans who then ingest their flesh and the local environment, as waters become contaminated. Fish farming is also unsustainable: raising a salmon on a farm, for example, requires three times the weight in wild fish to be used as feed.
Lobsters and crabs used for food are frequently subjected to one of the cruellest fates suffered by any animal – being boiled alive. Being plunged into a pot of boiling water while still conscious hurts these sentient animals just as much as you’d expect, and they show it by frantically scrabbling at the sides of the pot in terror for up to a minute before they die.
Some cooks also dismember or declaw them without painkillers. And prior to being killed, naturally solitary lobsters are piled on top of one another in tiny tanks. Their pincers are bound together to prevent them from tearing each other apart as they are driven insane by the intense, unnatural confinement.
Toxins and Chips? Fish and Your Health
Fish often live in water so dirty that you would never drink it. Their bodies absorb a toxic mixture of bacteria, contaminants and heavy metals – which will then be passed along to anybody who eats them. Seafood and tuna can contain high levels of mercury because of industrial pollution, sometimes causing mercury poisoning in humans: symptoms include hair loss, cognitive impairment and increased risk of heart disease.
As for the feted health benefits of omega-3 essential fatty acids, it’s perfectly possible to get plenty of these from plant sources. Walnuts, flaxseed, soya beans and cauliflower all contain these vital nutrients, without a toxic dose of chemicals and cruelty.
What You Can Do
It’s simple – stop eating fish and seafood. You will save the lives of many animals and diminish the profits of a global industry that harms millions of sentient beings a day and is responsible for wrecking our environment.
While you’re at it, why not swear off eating all animal products and distance yourself from cruelty altogether? Sign our 30-Day Vegan Pledge to get started today.
- Ninety per cent of large fish populations have been decimated in the past 50 years.
- The fishing industry is the biggest killer of animals in the world. It’s estimated that more than 1 trillion fish die at the hands of humans each year.
- Although they have no vocal cords, fish make low-pitched sounds to communicate with each other by rattling their teeth and bones, vibrating their muscles and using other parts of their bodies.
- Just as humans may be right- or left-handed, so lobsters are right- or left-pincered.
- An estimated 300,000 cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) die each year as “by-catch” when they become caught in fishing nets. Many birds, seals and turtles also die from injuries caused by fishing nets and tackle.