Fish Are Intelligent and Feel Pain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Sealab 2020” was an animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera, the same studio that produced classic cartoons such as “The Flintstones,” “Yogi Bear,” “The Jetsons,” and “Scooby-Doo,” I voiced several cartoon characters for Hanna-Barbera; in “Sealab 2020” I played Sali Murphy, daughter of Captain Michael Murphy, commander of Sealab, a research base constructed on the Challenger Sea Mount, an underwater mountain, in the year 2020, then 48 years in the future. Sealab was home to 250 men, women, and children, and was dedicated to the study and protection of marine life.

The series, produced in 1972-1973, was ahead of its time in developing stories around the destructive effects on sea life, marine mammals, and the environment of human activities such as commercial fishing, shipping, oil spills, and dumping of radioactive waste. At the time, I had no idea of the extent to which humans were – and are – trashing the oceans and causing harm to the living things in it. Most people don’t have much feeling for fish, but when you do some research you learn that they are highly intelligent creatures. Even before I became vegan, I never liked to eat fish after I witnessed a fish being pulled from its ocean home. I saw the sharp metal hook in its mouth, and the fish flapping around on the deck of the boat in panic and agony as it suffocated to death.

As an adult, I learned that fish are individuals who have their own unique personalities. Dive guides have been known to name friendly fish who follow divers around and enjoy being petted, just as dogs and cats do. Yet billions of fish die every year in nets, hooks, and on long lines.

According to Culum Brown, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, “fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of ‘higher’ vertebrates.” In Fish and Fisheries, biologists wrote that fish are “steeped in social intelligence, pursuing Machiavellian strategies of reconciliation, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and cooperating to inspect predators and catch food.”

Fish communicate through a range of low-frequency sounds from buzzes and clicks to yelps and sobs. These sounds, most of which are only audible to humans with the use of special instruments, communicate emotional states such as alarm or delight, and help with courtship.

While fish do not always express pain and suffering in ways that humans can easily recognize, scientific reports from around the world substantiate the fact that fish feel pain. Researchers from Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities studied the pain receptors in fish and found that they were strikingly similar to those of mammals. The researchers concluded that “fish do have the capacity for pain perception and suffering.”

Hooked fish struggle out of fear and intense physical pain. Once fish are taken out of their natural environment and pulled into ours, they suffocate. Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders can rupture because of the sudden change in pressure.

The average U.S. consumer eats nearly 16 pounds of fish and shellfish every year. To meet this demand, U.S. commercial fishers reel in more than 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish annually.

Commercial fishers use factory-style trawlers the size of football fields to catch fish. Miles-long nets stretch across the ocean, capturing every fish and marine mammal in their path. Fish are scraped raw from rubbing against the rocks and debris that are caught in the nets with them. Then they bleed or suffocate to death on the decks of the ships, gasping for oxygen and suffering for as long as 24 hours. Some fishing boats use gill nets, which ensnare every animal they catch, and fish are mutilated when they are extracted from the nets.

Longline fishing, in which 40 miles of monofilament fishing line dangles thousands of enormous, individually metal baited hooks to catch tuna and swordfish, drowns thousands of turtles and birds every year. Because of the fishing industry’s indiscriminate practices, the population of the world’s large predatory fish, such as swordfish and marlin, has declined by 90 percent since the advent of industrialized fishing.

Overfishing is threatening shark populations, too, with more than 100 million killed every year. One underwater photographer says that when he works off the north coast of New South Wales, he finds that “almost every second grey nurse shark… has a hook hanging out of its mouth, with a bit of trailing line following it.” Many sharks are the victims of “finning,” in which fishers catch sharks, haul them on deck, hack off their fins (for expensive shark fin soup), and toss the maimed, helpless animals back into the ocean to die in agony.

Like the flesh of other animals, the flesh of sea animals contains excessive amounts of protein, fat, and cholesterol,

What can you do? Never buy or eat fish. Grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds provide all the essential amino acids you need. Vegetarian products like mock lobster, shrimp, and crab have all the taste of the “real thing” with none of the cruelty or contaminants. Omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease, can be found in flaxseeds, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. Recipes for fabulous, healthy, and animal-friendly vegetarian dishes, including faux fish sticks and sushi, can be found at VegCooking.com.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

 

In Horse Racing, the Horse Always Loses

In a 1974 episode of “Shazam,” I played a girl determined to save the life of a horse sentenced to die by an evil and heartless man. The lesson of the story was that all life has meaning and that living beings are entitled to justice and mercy. Between shows like “Shazam” and all those westerns, I worked with a lot of horses. I know them to be beautiful, gentle, and intelligent animals, which is why horse racing makes me both sad and angry, and why I’ve written this brief essay.

 

They perform for our entertainment behind a glamorous façade of fancy dress, cocktails, floral wreaths, and glittering trophies. At weights greater than 1,000 pounds, they are supported by ankles no bigger than those of a human. Carrying 126 pounds of jockey and tack on their slender backs, they are whipped and forced to race with blinkered vision at speeds over 30 miles an hour on tracks of cement-hard dirt, slippery turf, or sometimes thick, spattering mud. They are the victims of a multi-billion-dollar industry rife with drug abuse, catastrophic injuries, and race fixing, and many will end their days at the slaughterhouse. They are racehorses.

 

Today is the running of the 142nd Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the celebrated Triple Crown of horse racing. Millions of dollars will change hands at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, where this week a two-year-old horse was killed after breaking his leg in a race, marking the second time in three years a horse was killed on the track at Pimlico during Preakness week.

 

On one recent Preakness Day, five horses took to starting gates across the United States for their final races. One died of a heart attack, while three others were killed after fracturing legs; another suffered a fatal injury falling over a jump in a steeplechase race. In 2015, 953 horses lost their lives on racetracks across the United States, meaning every day of the year we are killing two or three horses for two-dollar bets.

 

Many racehorses are doped and drugged. Trainers and veterinarians keep injured horses racing when they should be healing by giving them a variety of legal drugs to mask pain and control inflammation. Running with pain dulled by drugs leads to breakdowns, further injuries, and often death.

 

Not all drugs used are legal. “There are trainers pumping horses full of illegal drugs every day,” says a former Churchill Downs public relations director. “With so much money on the line, people will do anything to make their horses run faster.” One trainer was suspended for “treating” five horses with a drug similar to Ecstasy, and another was banned from racetracks for using the stimulant clenbuterol.

 

Few injured or aged horses or those not fast enough to finish “in the money” are retired to pasture, because owners don’t want to feed and stable a horse who doesn’t pay for his or her upkeep. Many of those horses are sold to slaughterhouses in Canada, Mexico, or Japan, where they are killed and processed into dog food and glue. Their flesh is also exported to countries such as France and Japan, where horse meat is considered a delicacy. Horses sent to slaughter spend their last days in cramped trailers with no access to food or water. Injuries during transport are common. Upon arrival they are herded into corrals where they thrash about in fear and panic to avoid the shot of the captive-bolt gun intended to render them unconscious before their throats are cut. It’s a sad and horrifying end to the life of such a beautiful and majestic animal.

 

Please join me in opposition to horse racing by refusing to attend or bet on races and by lobbying against the construction of new racetracks.

 

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

 

Why Should Animals Have Rights?

Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. Many of us bought our beloved “pets” at pet shops, had guinea pigs, or kept beautiful birds in cages. We wore wool and silk, ate burgers at McDonald’s, and went fishing. Never did we consider the impact of these actions on the animals involved.

People often ask, should animals have rights? The answer, quite simply, is “Yes!” Animals deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation. Jeremy Bentham, social reformer and founder of the Utilitarian school of moral philosophy, identified the vital characteristic to establish the rights of beings. “The question,” wrote Bentham, “is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Unlike the capacity for language or to perform higher mathematics, the capacity for suffering is universal. All animals suffer in the same way and to the same degree as humans do. All animals feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and maternal love.

Whenever we engage in an activity that exploits or causes animals to suffer – eating them, putting them in prison-like zoos, wearing their fur or hides or buying items that are tested on animals – it is unethical and immoral. What you would not do to a human, it is wrong to do to an animal. Human society permits such horrendous things to be done to animals. Think of the steel jaw leg hold trap and anal electrocutions of fur-bearing animals. Think of pigs living their lives in gestation crates, unable to turn around or touch their offspring. Think of male calves ripped from their mothers, fed an anemic diet, and chained to an igloo in the bitter cold to be slaughtered for veal. Think of fish with sharp metal hooks in their mouths, pulled from the water to die of suffocation. Think of elephants in a circus being hit and jabbed behind the ears or knees and other sensitive areas with a “bull hook,” a wooden rod with a sharp steel hook at one end. Think of the miserable existence of a dairy cow, artificially inseminated again and again on what the dairy industry calls a “rape rack” in order to provide milk for humans while her own unweaned offspring are taken from her. Think also of the factory farmed chickens packed so tightly in cages that they go crazy and would peck at each other had their sensitive beaks not been cut off with a sharp blade, leaving many unable to eat or drink. The list goes on and on.

Supporters of animal rights believe that animals have an inherent worth, a value separate from their usefulness to humans. We believe that every creature with the will to live has the right to live free from pain and suffering imposed by humans. Animal rights is not just a philosophy, it is a social movement that challenges society’s traditional view that nonhuman animals exist solely for the use and benefit of humans. As PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk has said, “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife.”

Only prejudice, tradition, and an unwillingness to give up what we’re used to, allows us to deny others the rights that we demand for ourselves. Whether it’s based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or species, prejudice is morally unacceptable. If you wouldn’t eat a dog, why eat a pig, a cow, or a fish? Those animals share the same capacity to feel pain as any other, and it’s reprehensible for us to think of one animal as a companion and another as dinner.

The Carriage Industry Is Taking You for a Ride

In this scene from Walt Disney’s “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band,” I’m riding in a horse-drawn wagon with my movie dad Buddy Ebsen and brother Jon Walmsley. Today I’d have thought differently about the poor horse pulling that load for take after take in the hot California sun, but even that burden pales next to those put on horses made to draw carriages on our urban streets.

I’ve always felt sad for carriage horses, plodding along wearily on crowded asphalt streets as buses and cars go whizzing by, just inches away. Carriage horses are forced to pull heavy loads in extreme weather, dodge honking traffic, and pound the pavement day in and day out until they get old, injured, or sick, after which they’re sent to the slaughterhouse. These horses lead very sad lives. From constant walking and standing on hard streets, lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable in carriage horses. Many develop respiratory ailments from breathing in exhaust fumes, and suffer debilitating leg problems from walking on hard surfaces. Weather conditions, too, can prove fatal for working horses. Carriage horses are exposed to long shifts in bitter cold and wet weather in the winter, and scorching heat and debilitating humidity in the summer. Many drop dead on the city streets from dehydration and heatstroke.

In an audit of the New York carriage industry, that city’s comptroller found that horses on the street did not have ready access to water, had insufficient shade during hot weather, and that, because of poor street drainage, “the horses are left to stand in pools of dirty water.”

People around the world are increasingly recognizing that it’s the carriage industry – not just the horses – taking them for a ride. Please don’t patronize carriage rides, and explain to family and friends why they shouldn’t, either. If your city permits carriages on its streets, urge your representatives to propose legislation that will ban this obsolete and abusive amusement.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

 

A Thought for Earth Day and Every Day

Sunday, April 22 is Earth Day. I believe it is our duty to protect and preserve our planet. I have seen the ravages of climate change within my own lifetime. Every year there is an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts and wildfires that take the lives of countless animals who have done nothing to create or exacerbate the conditions that are destroying their natural habitats.

Last year’s west coast wildfires wreaked havoc on both wild and domestic animals. Some fires moved at the rate of one acre per second, consuming everything in their paths. Fleeing animals can’t outrun the flames and were burned alive or suffocated from smoke inhalation. I was angered by news reports that showed horses locked in stables and other animals left behind in pens or tied to trees or fences, abandoned by their fleeing owners and left to die. How people can be so selfish and cruel is beyond my understanding. My heart breaks for animals in times of natural disaster because they are confused, frightened, and have no place to go. Humans who lose their homes can rebuild, but poor animals die by the thousands in fear, pain, and misery.

During the time of the wildfires I volunteered at an animal shelter, trying to reunite cats and dogs separated from their owners. I also helped dozens of volunteers wash animals brought in completely covered with ash. We flushed out their eyes with warm water as animals are incapable of doing that for themselves. The animals were crying and shaking; it was so very, very sad. We did what we could while giving them loving kindness and comfort.

I urge anyone who can make the time to volunteer at your local animal rescue. Even in non-emergency times, animals need you to help them find safe and loving adoptive homes.

Earth Day is not just about air and water and plants, it’s also about remembering that we must be stewards of the earth’s animals. They are so innocent and need us to love them, adopt them, and NOT to eat them.

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

 

A Circus Is No Fun for the Animals

Hanna-Barbera’s The Roman Holidays was a humorous look at “modern-day” life in Ancient Rome, as seen through the adventures of the Holiday family. I voiced the youngest Holiday, Precocia. The Holidays had a family “cat,” a lion named Brutus. Brutus’ antics very often got the family in trouble, but it was all in cartoon fun. What’s not funny is the life of a lion – or a tiger, or an elephant, or any animal – in a circus.

“The circus is coming to town” is a saying that used to bring excitement to small town and city dwellers, but now with the knowledge of what really goes on “behind the big top,” people are thinking twice. Instead of paying money to see the exploitation of animals in circuses, people are choosing “animal free” circuses like Cirque du Soleil and many others who are saying “NO” to the use of animals in circuses. You see, there’s another side to the story of animals in the circus I’d like to address – animal cruelty.

Consider the elephants. Circuses typically confine these animals with a pair of heavy leg chains front and rear, diagonally opposite. An elephant thus chained cannot even turn in a circle. It’s not unusual for these animals to live in double leg chains all night and day except during performances and when they are on public “display.” Some elephants are kept in a small electrified corral, but even those elephants may spend 10 hours or more a day in double leg chains. Male elephants may have their head and trunk movements restrained with additional chains. Most of us would be outraged to see a dog tethered in that manner. Yet a wild elephant, or even one born into captivity, has an immense, instinctive need to roam, take mud baths and interact with their own social community.

In nature, elephants sleep only four hours a night and can travel up to 80 kilometers a day, but the frustration, boredom, and loneliness of circus confinement creates the motivation for aggression. When I think about the effects of rampaging elephants’ (as has happened in cities worldwide), I wonder why animal acts have been tolerated for as long as they have. A visit behind the scenes of circuses can be an eye-opener. One sees tigers kept in cages equivalent to what an airline carrier would be for domestic cats (where the tigers can’t even turn around let alone express their natural behaviors), hippos in tiny containers with scarcely six inches of water, and bears with muzzles around their mouths while harnessed onto the backs of horses. Animals in circuses also engage in aberrant, repetitive movements such as pacing and rocking; these are pitiful symptoms of the complete boredom and isolation in a totally unnatural environment. Many circus animal “handlers” don’t really care or, worse yet, go out of their way to abuse animals.

The opportunity to dominate large land mammals like elephants and tigers seems to attract individuals with violent behavior to work as “handlers.” One technique used to dominate an elephant is to wet him down and then repeatedly administer 110-volt shocks to drive the animal to its knees. Not only does this torture and terrify the animal, it may prematurely age its brain. Another is to strike an elephant repeatedly in their most sensitive areas with a bull hook, a long wooden rod with a sharp metal hook at one end. The “handlers” do this in order to get elephants, who weigh thousands of pounds, to do tricks which are difficult and completely unnatural for them to do. Some circuses say that they train their animals with a “reward system;” this is simply false propaganda meant to soothe an uneducated public.

If we want this world to be a more peaceful and less violent place, if we want to start teaching young children to have compassion and respect for those beings with whom we share the planet yet who are different from us, then we must not take them to places that show these magnificent animals doing stupid and unnatural tricks in ridiculous costumes. This teaches nothing to our children about these animal’s lives or who they truly are and should be.

Please teach your children compassion not cruelty and choose circuses that have the jugglers, clowns, cotton candy and acrobats, but do not contain the animal suffering of those circuses who use animals.

For more information, please visit:

friendsofanimals.org/program/circuses-rodeos-bull-riding/

www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/circuses/

Always Look for the “Not Tested on Animals” Symbol

We filmed 14 episodes of “Blondie” but only 13 aired before the series was cancelled. In the unaired episode, Dagwood, wearing a bunny costume, is on his way to perform at an Easter charity benefit when his car breaks down, leading to chaotic encounters with startled drivers, the police, and 12 real rabbits.

I’m against vivisection, experimentation on animals. Did you know that product testing labs are STILL vivisecting thousands upon thousands of innocent animals?

Because they are mild-tempered and easy to handle, confine, and breed, rabbits are frequent victims of animal experimenters; more than 170,000 of them are abused in U.S. laboratories every year.

Despite the availability of more modern, humane, and effective alternatives, rabbits are still tormented in the notorious Draize eye irritancy test, in which cosmetics, dishwashing liquid, drain cleaner, and other substances are dripped into the animals’ eyes, often causing redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, hemorrhaging, cloudiness, or blindness. After the experiments are over the rabbits are killed. In addition, even though internationally-accepted non-animal methods exist, rabbits’ backs are shaved and corrosive chemicals are applied to their raw skin in skin corrosion tests and left there for up to two weeks. These chemicals often burn the skin, leading to tissue damage. The victims of these tests are given no pain relief during this excruciatingly painful experience and, again, after the test is finished, they are killed.

Horrific experiments like those above are being done to cats, dogs, primates, and other animals by laboratories around the world. Please say NO to vivisection and boycott any products that have been tested on animals. Look for products packaged with the symbol that says, “NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS;” see the samples shown.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

It’s the Year of the Dog – And Your Pets Are “Cutered” When They’re Neutered

Happy New Year! According to the Chinese lunar calendar, it’s now the Year of the Dog. Here are some photos of me and some of the great dogs I worked with in my acting career. Each one of them was a beautiful, intelligent, loving animal, and every one of them was brought to the set in a cage and returned to their cages when their work was done. This made me sad and angry. I enjoyed the companionship of several beloved dogs of my own growing up; I still do. Who doesn’t love dogs – and cats, too? So why do we allow millions of them to be killed each year in animal shelters?

About ten million healthy cats, dogs, puppies and kittens are killed each year in animal shelters across the United States. The numbers overwhelm us and, in an important sense, that number diminishes the true horror of the situation, reducing the impact to a confused statistical jumble.

Ten million individual lives. Who can understand a number that big? To appreciate the magnitude of this crisis, one must look into the eyes of the individual dogs and cats waiting to be killed in our animal shelters. I have seen them myself, with ropes around their necks, their legs literally shaking. They looked up to me as if to say, “I just want to be loved. Please help me, I don’t want to die.” They watch as the others who go before them are slapped on a stainless-steel table, a needle filled with poison thrust into their beating hearts and then, sometimes while they are still breathing, dumped onto a cement floor like so much garbage.

Who is responsible? Why DO animals die? The responsibility for the mass execution of animals in our shelters each year is shared by us all. It is the fault of one uniquely powerful, incredibly myopic and self-centered species, the human. Many of us treat animals like a cheap commodity and take them for granted. They are not accorded the intrinsic value they deserve; the value that a caring, compassionate person may begin to understand if you look into the eyes of all animals. But there are three things that you can do to prevent these unnecessary deaths.

First, we must all be aware that breeding equals killing. There is no adequate justification for the purposeful or accidental breeding of any owned companion animal no matter what the commercial value. Spaying and Neutering is a responsible step to prevent companion animals from giving birth to more and more puppies and kittens. It’s not only healthier for the individual animal, but it will help stop the killing of those in the shelters. There are low-cost spay/neuter facilities if a person can’t afford to pay the usual $80.00 it costs to spay or neuter a companion animal. Also, most shelters will spay and neuter the adopted dog or cat before they are taken home by their new family. With the advent of “early spay/neuter programs” a puppy or kitten can be neutered starting as early as eight weeks of age.

Secondly, only go to an animal shelter or rescue to adopt your next best friend, NOT to a pet store or breeder. Behind the facade of the pet store window is hidden the gruesome puppy mill industry. Within these breeding farms, puppies endure extreme deprivation during their first weeks of life. At six to eight weeks of age, puppies are crammed two to a crate and shipped to any of the thousands of pet shops across the country. These puppies, jostled from truck to truck and finally to air cargo bays, may endure days in transit. The adult dogs who are used to produce the “cash-crop” of puppies are forced to spend their entire lives in cramped cages or pens. And because profit is the ultimate goal of the puppy mill owner, these poor breeding dogs are kept in conditions that will barely keep them alive and producing. When the adult females are so worn out from giving birth to litter after litter, she is killed because she is no longer profitable to the puppy mill owner.

Even AKC breeders who let you see their facilities are in fact putting a price on the heads of animals who look a certain way and have a certain bloodline. But how can a person base a dog’s or cat’s worth by these criteria? That’s what the Nazis did in Germany. They placed a high value on an individual only if they had blond hair and blue eyes and were of the “correct” bloodline; all other individuals were “worthless.” A dog or cat’s value is NOT in what their AKC papers say; each dog or cat is a unique individual. And those dogs and cats, puppies and kittens who are waiting at your local shelter to be rescued and given a chance at life will be killed if people continue to frequent pet stores and breeders.

Last but certainly not least, the hope for the animals is to be found in a human culture which learns to feel beyond itself. We must learn empathy; we must learn to see into the eyes of an animal and feel that it’s life has value. Nothing less will do.

For more information, please visit:

friendsofanimals.org/program/dont-delay-neuter-or-spay/

www.peta.org/…/companion-animal…/overpopulation/spay-neuter/

 

 

 

The Cruelty of Egg Farming

In the movie “The Beguiled,” starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, I played Amy, a tender-hearted girl who loves and nurtures animals. Early in the movie Amy is seen tending to a wounded crow. The crow, whose wing has been injured, is tied to the railing of a balcony so he can’t fly away until he has fully recovered. “I love ya, Mr. Crow,” Amy says as she tries to comfort the struggling bird, “but until your wings are mended, it’s for your own good.” The scene foreshadows the plight of Eastwood’s character, McB, as he recovers from his injuries in the boarding school.

When I think about birds now I think about the horrific abuse birds – chickens, ducks, and others – endure on egg-laying farms. Egg farms continually breed birds so they have a fresh supply of hens to lay eggs. After two years spending their lives in horribly cramped conditions inside huge warehouses, the hens stop laying enough eggs to cover the cost of their feed and are shipped to the slaughterhouse.

If chicks in the hatchery turn out to be males (who, of course, don’t lay eggs), they’re considered useless by-products. Those poor baby birds are tossed ALIVE, cheeping pitifully for their mothers, into the trash, or thrown ALIVE into rendering machines to be ground up and used as feed for other animals.

Female chicks have part of their beaks painfully cut off while fully conscious, because egg-laying hens are forced to live in such crowded conditions they peck at each other. This is why I don’t eat eggs, or any other animals for that matter. Birds such as “broiler” chickens and egg-laying hens are made to live such miserable and painful lives that I simply cannot ethically eat their abused corpses.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

Are You Pescatarian? Here Are a Few Things You Should Know

In the Hanna-Barbera animated series, Sealab 2020, my character Sali lived in an underwater research station commanded by her father, Captain Murphy. Sali – and those who watched the show – learned about the ecology of the earth’s oceans and the interconnectedness of life on land and in the sea. Sali understood that aquatic animals were intelligent, social beings in the same way land animals are.

There are a lot of people who have stopped eating meat and dairy for health reasons as well as for the horrific cruelty and suffering the animals experience.  Many of these same people, however, still eat fish; they call themselves pescatarians. They believe that by eating sea animals like fish, they are not causing any suffering.

I’ve never understood why people think sea animals don’t feel pain. Maybe because they look so different from us land mammals, and they live underwater so we don’t see them as often. The only time many people see them is when their flesh is delivered on a plate.

Even before I was vegan I didn’t like eating sea animals. I had seen them on fishing boats when I was a young girl. I’d see them flopping around violently, their eyes open wide, their gills gasping for air. So, for all those pescatarians out there, here is some valuable information to educate you about the truth regarding fish and how science is proving they certainly feel pain.

Fishing: Aquatic agony

Like the animals many people share their homes with, fish are individuals who have their own unique personalities. Dive guides have been known to name friendly fish who follow divers around and enjoy being petted, just as dogs and cats do.

Fish can communicate, make tools, think, and feel pain

According to Culum Brown, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, “Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match those of ‘higher’ vertebrates.”

In Fish and Fisheries, biologists wrote that fish are “steeped in social intelligence, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and cooperating to inspect predators and catch food.” According to Dr. Jens Krause of the University of Leeds, while some fish live in large hierarchical societies and others have smaller family units, all rely on these “social aggregations,” which “act as an information center where fish can exchange information with each other.”

Fish such as sharks, tuna and others have demonstrated intelligence, curiosity, playfulness, the ability to learn through trial and error, and the ability to maintain social networks.

Scientists have learned that fish feel pain and suffer like any other animal. They just don’t have the vocal cords to scream.  Fish communicate through a range of low-frequency sounds—similar to buzzes and clicks. These sounds, most of which are only audible to humans with the use of special instruments, communicate emotional states such as alarm or delight and help with courtship.

While fish do not always express pain and suffering in ways that humans can easily recognize, scientific reports from around the world substantiate the fact that fish feel pain. Researchers from Edinburgh and Glasgow universities studied the pain receptors in fish and found that they were strikingly similar to mammals.

Hooked fish struggle because of fear and physical pain

Once fish are taken out of their natural environment and pulled into ours, they begin to suffocate. Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders rupture because of the sudden change in pressure;  their eyes bug out and since they can’t breathe outside the water, they flop around violently gasping until they succumb. If they are released or somehow escape back into the water, the hooks stay inside their mouths preventing them from feeding and die of starvation.

Today, many fish are raised on fish farms—crowded, waste-filled pools where they’re packed so tightly together they can barely move. At processing plants, they’re often skinned alive and cut into pieces while still fully conscious. Even wild-caught fish endure a miserable death, which can take up to half an hour as they slowly suffocate or are crushed beneath other fish.

Many trout streams are so intensively fished that they are subject to catch-and-release regulations, requiring that all fish caught be released; the aquatic animals in these streams are likely to spend their short lives being repeatedly traumatized and injured.  Biologist Ralph Manns points out that fish such as bass are territorial, and once they are caught and released, these fish may be unable to find their homes and “be fated to wander aimlessly.”

Birds are killed as well as a result of fishing with hooks

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that discarded monofilament fishing line is the number one killer of adult brown pelicans, although one Audubon biologist says that “[p]retty much every type of water or shore bird can get caught up in fishing line …. We find dead cormorants, anhingas, herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills … you name it.” Ospreys sometimes use discarded fishing line in their nests, and both parents and their young have been found entangled in it or impaled on fishing hooks. Dolphins have also died from asphyxiation after choking on fish who had tackle still attached.

Commercial fishing

The average U.S. consumer eats nearly 16 pounds of fish and shellfish every year. To meet this demand, U.S. commercial fishers reel in more than 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish annually, the aquaculture industry raises more than 700 million pounds per year, and another 5 billion pounds of seafood is imported.

Commercial fishers use vast factory-style trawlers the size of football fields to catch fish. Miles-long nets stretch across the ocean, capturing everyone in their path. These boats haul up tens of thousands of fish in one load, keeping the most profitable and dumping other animals (such as rays, dolphins, and crabs) back into the ocean. Fish are scraped raw from rubbing against the rocks and debris that are caught in the nets with them. Then they bleed or suffocate to death on the decks of the ships, gasping for oxygen and suffering for as long as 24 hours. Millions of tons of fish who are considered to be “undersized” are left to die on the decks or are tossed back into the ocean, where they usually die soon afterward.

Some fishing boats use gill nets, which ensnare every animal they catch, and fish are mutilated when they are extracted from the nets. These kinds of nets are believed to be responsible for the majority of incidents involving the accidental netting and death of hundreds of thousands of marine mammals over decades of use.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 71 cases of whale entanglement off the Coast of California in 2016, the highest total recorded in the area since NOAA started keeping records in 1982.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 80 percent of the world’s fish are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. One study conducted by 14 marine scientists concluded that continued overfishing of the world’s fish will cause “100% of species [to] collapse.”

Overfishing is threatening shark populations, too, with more than 100 million killed every year. One underwater photographer says that when he works off the north coast of New South Wales, he finds that “almost every second grey nurse shark … has a hook hanging out of its mouth, with a bit of trailing line following it.” Many sharks are the victims of “finning,” in which fishers catch sharks, haul them on deck, hack off their fins (for expensive shark fin soup), and toss the maimed, helpless animals back into the ocean to die in agony.

Eating fish is hazardous to your health

Like the flesh of other animals, the flesh of sea animals contains excessive amounts of protein, fat and especially cholesterol.

The flesh of fish (including shellfish) can accumulate extremely high levels of carcinogenic chemical residues, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), thousands of times higher than that of the water they live in. A study of the nation’s freshwater waterways concluded that one in four fish is contaminated with levels of mercury that exceed government standards for safety.

The New England Journal of Medicine asserts that fish “are the main if not the only source of methyl mercury,” which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, fetal brain damage, blindness, deafness, and problems with motor skills, language, and attention span.

After an analysis of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on canned tuna, Consumer Reports cautioned that cans of tuna “especially white, tend to be high in mercury.”

So, when people you know say “I’m a pescatarian, I only eat fish,” you might want to point out that not only do fish feel pain, they suffer and die in agony like any other animal raised for food. You can also tell them that eating fish is completely unnecessary. You can get all the protein you need from a low-fat vegan diet (look at elephants!) Plus, there is zero cholesterol in a vegan diet. We human animals make more than enough cholesterol in our own livers, we certainly don’t need to ingest the cholesterol made in the livers of the animals being consumed.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!