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Attitudes to Fish
It's hard for fish to
arouse our compassion. They can't show their agony by screaming. They
don't have the sad eyes of a seal pup or a dog.
In an article in The Adelaide Advertiser, Professor Bill
professor of anaesthesia and intensive care at Adelaide University, was
quoted as saying:
"Fish constitute the greatest source of confused
thinking and inconsistency on earth at the moment with respect to
pain. You will get people very excited about dolphins because they are
mammals, and about horses and dogs, if they are not treated properly.
At the same time you will have fishing competitions on the River
Murray at which thousands of people snare fish with hooks and allow
them to asphyxiate on the banks, which is a fairly uncomfortable and
Since fish have the same nerve endings, the same chemicals for
transmitting and blocking pain, and the same receptor sites for
anxiety-reducing chemicals as mammals, it is absolute nonsense
to suggest that fish do not feel pain or
acknowledge that fish feel pain and stress. In one of its newsletters,
the Australian Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching
advised researchers to reduce the pain and stress suffered by
cold-blooded vertebrates (including fish) used in experiments.
The article recommended that: "humane restraint, analgesia and
anaesthetic should be adopted whenever necessary. Adequate levels of
analgesia reduce apprehension and stress, and decrease or suppress the
perception of painful stimuli."
Fish Feel Pain
If fish can't show their pain, how can we know whether they feel
pain at all? There is very strong scientific evidence to show that
Fish have nerve endings near the skin which are very similar to
those of humans and other mammals. We all have receptor cells (called
nociceptors) near the skin, which are stimulated by events severe
enough to cause damage to body tissues. The lips and mouth of fish are
particularly well supplied with nerve endings.
Fish produce the same pain-transmitting chemicals as humans. There
are two main chemicals involved. When a nerve ending is damaged, a
substance called bradykinin is released. This causes the nerve cell to
fire, sending an electrical impulse along the nerve. When bradykinin
is released near the skin, a second chemical, called substance P, is
released near the spinal cord.
Both substances are known to be involved in transmitting pain. For
example, if bradykinin is injected into humans, it causes intense
pain, even if a local anaesthetic is used. Both bradykinin and
substance P are found in mammals, birds, frogs and fish.
Fish produce the same pain-blocking substances as humans. When in
severe pain, humans and other vertebrates (animals with backbones)
produce pain-killing chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins
block pain by stopping the release of substance P.
Fish Feel Anxiety
For any chemical to
be able to affect our brain, there must be special areas in the brain,
called receptor sites, to which the chemical can attach. Fish, like
mammals, have receptor sites for anxiety-reducing chemicals, such as the
valium group of drugs. Dr Andrew Rowan, a Dean of Veterinary Science,
has said: "This suggests that most vertebrates are capable of
experiencing a form of anxiety which is physiologically similar to that
seen in humans."
What YOU Can Do
Choose ways of relaxing and enjoying the outdoors that do not
cause suffering to animals.
If people you know won't give up fishing, at least try to convince
them to kill fish as soon as they are pulled from the water, rather
than removing hooks while they are still alive and letting them
In NSW, fish come under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act
(POCTA). Write to the Minister for Agriculture and say how barbaric
you consider gaffing, live-baiting and big-game fishing to be. Say you
want them banned as cruel under the provisions of POCTA.