‘Fish Can’t Feel Pain’ Doesn’t Hold Water

Posted by on May 18, 2021 | Permalink

Can fish feel pain? The answer is a resounding yes, and claims to the contrary simply don’t hold water.

Fish swimming

A scientist recently claimed that fish “detect and have a hormonal response to noxious stimuli [but that] does not mean they are conscious and feel pain”, or – in plain English – that fish can physically detect and react to damage to their bodies, but that this doesn’t equate to emotional suffering. However, PETA, the vast majority of the scientific community, and the fish themselves, no doubt, disagree with this view.

“You know that the misconception that fish can’t feel pain has been completely disproven, don’t you?”
– Marine biologist Dr Sylvia Earle

While it’s true that there is a difference between the perception of injury and the emotional experience of suffering, there’s overwhelming evidence that fish are capable of the latter. The claim that injured fish are merely responding to damage without experiencing pain is often rolled out by those who wish to exploit these sensitive animals, but it’s outdated and not backed up by evidence.

Why ‘Fish Can’t Feel Pain’ Doesn’t Hold Water

It’s widely accepted by the scientific community that all vertebrate species (including fish) and at least some invertebrate species are sentient and can experience pain. Dr Lynne Sneddon, one of the world’s leading experts on fish pain, agrees that there is plenty of evidence demonstrating this capacity in fish.

Extensive research shows that injured fish demonstrate prolonged behavioural changes meeting the criteria for a pain response in mammals – including increased or decreased activity, rubbing the affected body part, altered posture, reduced appetite, increased breathing rate, failure to respond normally to predators, and avoidance of the area of the tank where they were injured – that can be prevented by administering pain relief. What’s more, fish’s bodies are equipped with the structures and systems we know to be necessary for producing pain in mammals, so there’s no reason to doubt that fish are physically capable of pain and produce an emotional response indicative of suffering in a similar way to mammals.

So, the scientific consensus is clear – fish do feel pain.

The Truth About Fish

Fish are intelligent: they use tools, tell time, sing, and have impressive long-term memories and complex social structures.

There’s no doubt that the billions of fish who are impaled, crushed, suffocated, and cut open every day for a fleeting taste of their flesh suffer immensely – and needlessly.

Clearing Consciences

Claiming that fish don’t feel pain may ease consumers’ consciences, but such claims are without merit and are about as convincing as arguing that the Earth is flat.

Don’t be duped – the only way to clear your conscience is to stop eating fish and other animals. There are so many wonderful vegan fish and seafood options available that there’s never been a better time to make the switch. Check out our ultimate guide to vegan fish available here in the UK:

Leave fish off your plate and order a copy of our free vegan starter kit, which is packed full of recipes, tips, and advice, including information on plant-based nutrition and ideas for quick and tasty vegan meals: