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You would think they might scream or something...
May 5, 2003 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Fish have feelings too. Or so says Dr. Sneddon of the University of Liverpool. Her research into "trout trauma" is leading her to believe that fish don't care much for hooks and barbs.
“Our research demonstrates nociception and suggests that noxious stimulation in the rainbow trout has adverse behavioural and physiological effects. This fulfils the criteria for animal pain.”
I'm all out of sorts now. My dad loves to fish. He taught me how to fish. I like to fish with my dad. And now I'm a fish-hurter?!?
posted by grabbingsand (52 comments total)

 
You're all out of sorts "now?" And before, you thought the fish didn't much mind having a sharp piece of metal piercing its head?

And this link, though admittedly off-topic, does raise some interesting points about priorities.
posted by mapalm at 8:15 AM on May 5, 2003


If you just want to annoy them, you can fish with a hookless dry fly. Also works on bats under the streetlight. In fact sometimes a bat chomps down and doesn't want to let go and you can even play him a bit.
posted by jfuller at 8:20 AM on May 5, 2003


*off to found North American Batfishing Association*
posted by luser at 8:23 AM on May 5, 2003


Not to mention squirrel fishing.
posted by SealWyf at 8:32 AM on May 5, 2003


'If Fish Can Feel Pain, Then Maybe Iraqi Children Can, Too' has to be the Funniest Headline ever.
posted by xmutex at 8:40 AM on May 5, 2003


Well, you'll just have to eat them all. Buy a big freezer.
posted by ginz at 8:43 AM on May 5, 2003


I'm really really astounded that people find this 'discovery' surprising. I always assumed that fish felt pain, as they are animals with nervous systems. As far as I understand it, 'pain' is just about the most basic sensory input there is, and the ability to feel pain due to attack from a predator (or whatever) and take avoiding action is pretty much essential in a predator/prey situation.

There are plenty of spiky fish around. These spikes are usually for defense against predators, and unless I'm mistaken, this includes other fish. If fish couldn't feel pain then these spikes would be - dare I say it - pointless. You can't learn a lesson by dying - but you can certainly learn one from pain.

I eat meat. I have absolutely no problem with people who, for ethical reasons, don't. However, I find vegetarians who eat fish hilarious.
posted by chrid at 8:46 AM on May 5, 2003


But Kurt said that they didn't have any feelings!
posted by ph00dz at 8:48 AM on May 5, 2003


chrid: Ditto.
ph00dz: ROTFLMAO!
posted by skoosh at 9:21 AM on May 5, 2003


I don't know enough neurology to parse the reasoning behind each side on this issue. Fish sure act like they feel pain, and chrid makes a good biological-behavior case, but we can't really know for sure without being fish.

In the absence of certainty, though, i.e. if we can't be sure they don't feel pain, I think the onus is on fishermen to make the compelling case for why fishing as a sport needs to happen at all. Personally, I don't find "cause it's fun," or "my daddy did it" compelling.

I was surprised to see that even sustenance fishing has been affected by this: “The industry is not at all happy about the way we are killing our fish. We accept fish feel pain as a working hypothesis and it is clearly stressing fish. The fact that fish are still asphyxiated is because we haven’t developed a practical way of stunning them. It is a big priority.”
posted by soyjoy at 9:23 AM on May 5, 2003


I don't fish, of course, but this article does make me wonder whether I've been cruel in shooting so many fish in the barrel that is MetaFilter. Was I wrong? Do conservatives, chickenhawks, and right wing ideologues really feel pain?

~chuckle~

But we were talking about fishing. Let me just note (with apologies to E. Abbey) that in the time it takes some moron fisherman to stalk, entice, hook, play, and land some defenseless creature possessing a fractional IQ, I have hiked five canyons, climbed three mountains, made wild love on pink sand dunes with a goldhearted woman, pondered the ruins of dead civilizations, drank sweet cold water from secret green springs, sang along with mysterious wind in pinyon, and been driven to my knees by the subtle lessons of wilderness.

Each to their own passions, one supposes.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 9:26 AM on May 5, 2003


I'm surprised we haven't heard from fishfucker yet. The man has much to account for.
posted by orange swan at 9:29 AM on May 5, 2003


In a previous incarnation as a TV newsbabe, I did a puff piece on a fish farm that had public ponds stocked with rainbow trout. They supplied fishing rods with bait (niblets corn, apparently the rainbow trout's favorite treat), I supplied the photographer and the on-air presence.

The piece aired at suppertime. The highlight was a tight shot of the fish I caught, lying on a picnic table after having been bonked in the head. The head injury had clearly caused some severe neurological damage, and the fish was in the throes of a grand mal seizure (at least that's sure as hell what it looked like).

It was nasty. I completely lost my urge to go fishing ever again. Who knows what the viewers thought -- most of them were commercial fishermen and loggers. As far as I know, there weren't any complaints...
posted by filifera at 9:49 AM on May 5, 2003


mapalm, how predictable.

soyjoy and foldy, it's not even 10 a.m. and you two are high already?
posted by David Dark at 9:58 AM on May 5, 2003


That study, why... I... I feel like breaking out into song right about now.

"Feelings, nothing more than feelings,
Trying to forget my feelings of love.
Teardrops rolling down on my face,
Trying to forget my feelings of love...."

posted by five fresh fish at 10:14 AM on May 5, 2003


Aw, grabbingsand, fishin' ain't so bad! (flash alert)
posted by madamjujujive at 10:15 AM on May 5, 2003


There are two types of pain, and both are caused by the stimulation of two different kinds of nerve fibers. If fish have these kinds of fibers, then they feel pain as we recognise it. Most likely, this discovery was merely someone cutting open a fish and seeing that yes, they do in fact have one or more of these types of "pain" fibers. Personally, I'm highly ambivalent about the fact that they do. I want to eat fish, and lacking a hint of universalised utilitarianism, the fact that they feel pain has no moral import to me.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:20 AM on May 5, 2003


who is david dark, and why is s/he prognosticating?
posted by mapalm at 10:26 AM on May 5, 2003


What a silly bit of pondering. While I am a vegetarian mostly (for heath, not moral reasons), I do eat fish and seafood occasionally. I have been known to fish as well, and personally I have never found it emotionally advantageous to feel sympathy for my prey.

It's food, people! As with most organisms, we survive on the deaths of others. Accept it and move on.
posted by elendil71 at 10:32 AM on May 5, 2003


Pseudo, again I'm no expert, but for the record, the study in question was observing fish behavior rather than biological structure.

And mapalm, many people seem to be asking the same question on different threads. Whoever he is, he sure likes to talk about being high.
posted by soyjoy at 10:34 AM on May 5, 2003


Personally, I'm highly ambivalent about the fact that they do. I want to eat fish, and lacking a hint of universalised utilitarianism, the fact that they feel pain has no moral import to me.

That doesn't sound very ambivalent.

chrid: I find vegetarians who eat fish hilarious.

Why? People lean toward "vegetarianism" for all sorts of reasons; it's easy to imagine a non-moral argument against eating red meat that allows for eating fish.
posted by mediareport at 10:39 AM on May 5, 2003


However, I find vegetarians who eat fish hilarious.

Chrid, if someone eats fish, they AREN'T a vegetarian no matter what they might call themselves. I call them jerks who pave the way ahead of me to be told, "Oh, but you eat fish, right?"
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2003


Perhaps what is more important than the binary equation of life/death is the amount of suffering in the world. This kind of revelation that fish are able to suffer in ways similar to humans might inspire us to think twice about our actions. Is it Right to inflict suffering on creatures for the fun of it? Maybe you don't care, and if so, let that guide your actions. I simply suggest that you consider it, and perhaps increase the amount of compassion in your life.
posted by bug138 at 10:51 AM on May 5, 2003


Soyjoy>the study in question was observing fish behavior rather than biological structure.

Ah, I understood the "demonstrated nociception" line to mean that they demonstrated the existence and function of these fibers in fish. My bad.

mediareport >That doesn't sound very ambivalent.

I'm ambivalent about whether they feel pain, not whether I want to eat them. If fish didn't feel pain, well, that would be great. That they do isn't going to stop me from eating them, though.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:51 AM on May 5, 2003


While I am a vegetarian mostly

As others have pointed out, you can't be "mostly" a vegetarian. You either is or you ain't. And if you eat fish, you ain't. Think of it like pregnancy; almost doesn't count.
posted by dobbs at 10:57 AM on May 5, 2003


bug138: Excellent comment, IMHO.
posted by jsonic at 11:08 AM on May 5, 2003


you can't be "mostly" a vegetarian. You either is or you ain't.

Oh, please. Who makes up the rules here? I call myself "mostly vegetarian" all the time; the descriptor fits nicely in a world with plenty of shades of gray. The various kinds of vegetarians are obvious; dogmatic types who demand rigid categories of "vegetarian" and "non-vegetarian" are silly regardless of whether they come from the pro- or anti-meat-eating side.
posted by mediareport at 11:09 AM on May 5, 2003


mapalm, just noting that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I saw your name and as I went to click the link thought, "How much you wanna bet this is about little kids dying in war?" I actually kind of admire your ability to relate any idea to kids dying in war, but when you only know one trick, it does tend to become a predictable trick.
posted by David Dark at 11:25 AM on May 5, 2003


Hear hear, mediareport.

I refer to myself as a vegetarian as a largely pragmatic approach. I find it's simpler and faster to make it clear of what I choose not to eat, rather than explain the variables of what I DO eat. I guess I assume that communication is the key here, not the vagueries of semantic dogma.
posted by elendil71 at 11:28 AM on May 5, 2003


Each to their own passions, one supposes

Sweet Jeebus. I think I'm going to vomit.
posted by MrBaliHai at 11:31 AM on May 5, 2003


If fish didn't feel pain, well, that would be great. That they do isn't going to stop me from eating them, though.

All the animals "we" eat feel pain.
I think this news is more important for sportfishing. Hurt the fish, throw it back in the water.
I've always been more a fan of catch the fish and eat it. And only catch what you can eat.
posted by ginz at 11:36 AM on May 5, 2003


Oh, please. Who makes up the rules here? I call myself "mostly vegetarian" all the time; the descriptor fits nicely in a world with plenty of shades of gray. The various kinds of vegetarians are obvious; dogmatic types who demand rigid categories of "vegetarian" and "non-vegetarian" are silly regardless of whether they come from the pro- or anti-meat-eating side.

Mostly Christian? Mostly a non-smoker? Mostly male??

The frustration comes from being a vegetarian, and constantly having to define what seems to me obvious.

I am a vegetarian.

"Oh, but you eat chicken, right?"

No, I'm a vegetarian.

"But fish is ok, right? I have a friend . . ."

And so on, ad nauseam.

Vegetarians don't eat animals. Simple. You may avoid meat, you may have cut down on red meat, perhaps the only animal flesh you eat comes from the water, but you're not a vegetarian. It's a word, with a definition.
posted by tr33hggr at 12:04 PM on May 5, 2003


I'm ambivalent about whether they feel pain, not whether I want to eat them.

I'm not sure you can be ambivalent about something factual. The word means to feel torn between conflicting emotions.

As for vegetarians who eat fish, etc, unless someone expects the general population to pick up a whole slew of specific names that cover the spectrum from jain to cannibal, we vegetarians will just have to deal with answering that question ("but you eat fish, right?" - or my dad's favorite way to ask me, even though he knows the answer, because he still thinks it's funny after ten years "but you don't consider fish a vegetable do you?") every now and then. It certainly seems reasonable to me that different people will land at different spots along the continuum. Anyone who eats harvested vegetables (even organic produce) is responsible for the deaths of millions of insects, for instance.
posted by mdn at 12:06 PM on May 5, 2003


david dark: come on, you can do better than that. at least take a moment to write a response to the post...and not just the poster.
posted by mapalm at 12:07 PM on May 5, 2003


in the time it takes some moron fisherman to stalk, entice, hook, play, and land some defenseless creature possessing a fractional IQ, I have hiked five canyons, climbed three mountains, made wild love on pink sand dunes with a goldhearted woman, pondered the ruins of dead civilizations, drank sweet cold water from secret green springs, sang along with mysterious wind in pinyon, and been driven to my knees by the subtle lessons of wilderness.

You're really proud that you can do all that, including the lovemaking, in two or three minutes? Though I'll admit you can certainly haul ass.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:17 PM on May 5, 2003


mapalm, I eat fish. Fish can feel pain. Neither of these things makes me think of Iraqi children. Satisfied?
posted by David Dark at 12:20 PM on May 5, 2003


Mmmmm, yes. Thanks.
posted by mapalm at 12:22 PM on May 5, 2003


> I am a vegetarian.

But you eat carnivorous plants, right? My friend says she's a vegetarian and venus flytraps are OK. She does remove the flies.
posted by jfuller at 12:22 PM on May 5, 2003


mdn>I'm not sure you can be ambivalent about something factual. The word means to feel torn between conflicting emotions.

Sure you can, at least when someone is attempting to use that fact to take a leap across the "is-ought"gap. While I can see how the argument that "fish feel pain", therefore "one ought not to hurt them" argument works, I'm not entirely sure I agree with it on logical grounds, but neither am I sure that any rebuttal I make to it won't itself have unpleasant consequences, logical or otherwise. In the mean time, I choose to eat fish in a thoroughly unreflective spirit.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:36 PM on May 5, 2003


You may avoid meat, you may have cut down on red meat, perhaps the only animal flesh you eat comes from the water, but you're not a vegetarian.

Hence the modifier "mostly". mediareport didn't describe him/herself as "vegetarian", but "mostly vegetarian". I don't accept your argument that it's a black and white, either or, immune to modifiers, term. Someone who eats meat and describes themselves as vegetarian is being inaccurate, someone who eats meat very rarely and describes themselves as "mostly vegetarian" is being accurate.
posted by biscotti at 12:38 PM on May 5, 2003


Seems like a lot of people are getting baited here.
posted by ginz at 12:39 PM on May 5, 2003


Wow...I guess my HOA folks are the marquis de sades of fish then...we have a catch and release pond behind the house...
posted by dejah420 at 12:43 PM on May 5, 2003


Oh, please. Who makes up the rules here? I call myself "mostly vegetarian" all the time;

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.' -- Lewis Carroll

I don't accept your argument that it's a black and white, either or, immune to modifiers, term.

Well, unfortunately for you, the word has a definition. Kind of like unique, pregnant, or dead. You can't be more unique, pregnant or dead, regardless of what you think of the words. You're one or the other.
posted by dobbs at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2003


I don't accept your argument that it's a black and white, either or, immune to modifiers, term. Someone who eats meat and describes themselves as vegetarian is being inaccurate, someone who eats meat very rarely and describes themselves as "mostly vegetarian" is being accurate.

Ok, I'll agree with you, on a semantic level anyway. It is not, and shouldn't be, immune to modifiers. It is something, however, I take very seriously, and it annoys me to no end to hear some idiot talking about being an "almost-vegetarian" while eating nachos with ground beef.

Just a sore spot for me, I guess . . .
posted by tr33hggr at 12:53 PM on May 5, 2003


and let's not forget about all of these carnivorous animals who eat other creatures with reckless regard to their feelings. Does a bear not realize how much it hurts when he bites the head off a salmon, or do they not even care? Just because the lion is the so called "king of the beasts", does that give him the right to just eat any creature that happens his way? I think not!
I'm tired of all this animal on animal violence. Something should be done.
posted by reidfleming at 1:23 PM on May 5, 2003


My experience is that people pulling vegetarian rank on others tend to send the people (who are at least *considering* what they're eating; good grief, they're half-way to "our" side) who get outranked screaming back to the Golden Arches. But, hey, at least we get a pure, linguistically accurate club, right? Who needs others diluting our vision?

Vegetarian (real!) but no vegan, sorry.
posted by hackly_fracture at 1:52 PM on May 5, 2003


What biscotti said (and tr33hggr agreed to).

Since you like definitions so much, dobbs, here's one to chew on: Language is by definition playful and elastic.

"Mostly vegetarian" serves very well as a shorthand for what I eat. It's usefulness is borne out every time I use it; the listener always seems to understand my meaning perfectly. Unlike Alice and Humpty Dumpty. And speaking of Humpty, you stopped just short of his best line:

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you"!'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more or less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master--that's all.'


Zing!
posted by mediareport at 2:07 PM on May 5, 2003


Vegetarian: One who practices vegetarianism. (And/Or a herbivore)

Vegetarianism: The practice of subsisting on a diet composed primarily or wholly of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds, with or without eggs and dairy products.

Please stop arguing and think of the children!
all definitions from dictionary.com
posted by blue_beetle at 3:04 PM on May 5, 2003


Well, unfortunately for you, the word has a definition.

Aren't there accepted terms like pesco-vegetarian and pollo-vegetarian that could be used to make things a little more clear?
posted by DakotaPaul at 3:12 PM on May 5, 2003


ginz:

> Seems like a lot of people are getting baited here.

Won't somebody think of the worms?
posted by jfuller at 3:59 PM on May 5, 2003


Metabaiters.
posted by newlydead at 5:03 PM on May 5, 2003


I feel shame and guilt.
posted by troutfishing at 12:24 AM on May 6, 2003


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