Angling: Recreational Cruelty

Angling hookPierced through the mouth with a sharp metal hook; dragged out of the water, convulsing and struggling, into an environment where they can’t breathe; and killed outright, left to suffocate or flung back into the water, traumatised and sometimes fatally injured – fish suffer horribly at the hands of anglers.

People who fish would have you believe that their pastime is all about contemplating the tranquillity of nature. In reality, it’s a violent, callous blood sport. If people were doing to dogs and cats what anglers do to fish, they would rightly be put in prison.

A Hobby That Hurts

When they are yanked from the water, fish begin to suffocate. Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders can rupture because of the sudden change in pressure. It’s a truly horrific experience for the animals – who feel pain, just as we do.

Dr Donald Broom, a former scientific adviser to the British government, explains, “The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals”.Angling carp caught

Catch and Release

Just because an angler tosses a fish back into the water doesn’t mean that the animal hasn’t been harmed.

Studies show that fish who are caught and then returned to the water suffer such severe physiological stress that they often die of shock. Fish often swallow hooks, and anglers may try to retrieve a hook by shoving their fingers or pliers down the fish’s throat, ripping out not just the hook but also some of the fish’s throat and guts as well. When fish are handled, the protective coating on their bodies is disturbed. These and other injuries make fish easy targets for predators once they are returned to the water.

According to one fishery expert, catch-and-release victims “could be vulnerable to predators, unable to swim away, or if nesting, not capable of fending off nest raiders. Some guarding males could in fact abandon the nest”.

What You Can Do

You can love the great outdoors without maiming or killing animals. By all means, take a walk along the riverbank – but leave your fishing rod behind. And please, challenge anyone who claims that fish can’t feel pain or argues that catch-and-release fishing isn’t cruel. Angling isn’t a harmless pastime – it’s a cruel blood sport.


  • Britain’s 4 million anglers catch approximately 200 million fish each year.
  • Up to 43 per cent of fish released after being caught die within six days, according to researchers at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
  • Like birds, many fish build nests where they raise their babies. Others collect little rocks off the seafloor to make hiding places where they can rest.
  • In many areas, such as memory, fish’s cognitive powers match or exceed those of “higher” vertebrates, including non-human primates.
  • Other animals suffer for angling, too. Fishing litter is a major hazard for wildlife such as mice, voles, swans and hedgehogs.