Practical Issues > Fishing/Hunting > Fishing - Index

Apr 30 2003
by Claire Stoker, Liverpool Echo

FISH do feel pain, according to the latest research from a Liverpool university scientist.

For years anglers have claimed hooking fish out of the water and tossing them back in does not hurt.

But Dr Lynne Sneddon carried out research on rainbow trout and discovered they react when injected with bee venom or if the temperature is increased.

She said: "If we touch a hot iron, we have a reflex to pull away - this is down to nociceptors.

"For the first time we have discovered fish have them too."

When the trout were injected with the venom they started rocking from side to side, their breathing rate went up and they rubbed their lips on the tank walls.

The poet Byron famously described angling as "the cruellest, the coldest and the stupidest of pretended sports" and Max Gastone, of the Campai gn for the Abolition of Angling, agrees.

He said: "This backs up what we have been saying for years. Fish don't scream, nor can they display visual pain reactions so people wrongly think they don't feel pain."

But Charles Jardine, angling director of the Countryside Alliance, said nobody cares about what fish do or do not feel.

He said: "When people are tucking into their fish and chips I think all they really care about is whether or not it tastes good."

Scientist claims fish do feel pain

Alok Jha, science reporter
Wednesday April 30, 2003
The Guardian

For years anglers have claimed that fish feel no pain when they are hooked. But now a new British study appears to provide evidence that fish do suffer.

When the lips of rainbow trout were injected with bee venom or mild acid, the fish displayed a rocking motion similar to that observed in mammals under stress, and then behaved strangely for several hours afterwards.

"Fish have a very similar stress response to us," said Lynne Sneddon, who carried out the research at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. "Angling is likely to be painful because it causes tissue damage."

Animal rights activists have long called for Britain's 3.8 million anglers to stop their "cruel" sport.

Dr Sneddon and her team discovered that trout had receptors called "nociceptors" in the skin on their heads. In mammals, these warn the brain of things that could cause harm. But Dr Sneddon knew the presence of the receptors was not enough proof of pain.

After the trout were injected with damaging substances Dr Sneddon said: "I found the responses lasted for quite a prolonged period, around three hours and that they were performing anomalous behaviour that I hadn't seen in the fish before."

The findings were welcomed yesterday by animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals but they said it was unfortunate fish had to suffer to show something which was obvious. "It's shocking that people will still go fishing for fun," said a spokeswoman.

The National Angling Alliance called Dr Sneddon's conclusions "surprising".

"These findings are in direct contrast to the recent work of Professor James D Rose of the University of Wyoming, who stated ... that fish do not possess the necessary and specific regions of the brain to enable
them to feel pain or, indeed, fear," a spokesman said.

Bruno Broughton, a fish biologist and scientific adviser to the National Angling Alliance, said: "I doubt that it will come as much of a shock to anglers to learn that fish have an elaborate system of sensory cells around their mouths. Nor is it a surprise that, when their lips are injected with poisons, fish respond and behave abnormally.

"However, it is an entirely different matter to draw conclusions about the ability of fish to feel pain, a psychological experience for which they - literally - do not have the brains.

The Times
April 30, 2003
The hook hurts - will anglers feel the pain?
By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor and Helen Rumbelow

Eds note: Valerie Elliott is a pro-hunt anti animal rights fanatic. Most of the stuff she rights is complete and utter garbage and this article is no exception. The article is supposed to be about the report but she regurgitates the same old lies about animal rights activists being violent. There is no way she can substantiate any of the claims of violence including the nail bomb which was sent by someone with no links to animal rights at all.

BYRON described angling as "the cruelest of pretended sports". Now, two centuries later, research has finally backed him up by declaring that fish can feel pain.

If, as the study published yesterday by the Royal Society suggests, the cod in fish and chips, the salmon in sandwiches and the prize trout on the wall suffered to get there, then these islands' most popular sport and a major industry may be in trouble.

In recent years animal welfare activists have become vehement in their calls for Britain's 3.5 million anglers to give up their "violent" pastime.

Anglers reject claims that they can be compared to foxhunters, on the ground that fish are too low a life form to suffer pain.

The two-year study at the Roslin Institute and Edinburgh University is the latest in a series of contentious reports on the issue that have been championed by each side of the increasingly acrimonious, and sometimes violent, debate. It claims to be the first to find nervous system receptors that respond to painful experiences in the brains of fish.

Their experiments could be the precursor to new regulations for fish caught by commercial fishermen and reared in fish farms.

It also gives the thousands of "demi-vegetarians", who eat no meat because of welfare concerns, but do eat fish, food for thought.

Dr Lynne Sneddon, the head of animal biology at Liverpool University, said that she wanted to establish once and for all whether fish could feel pain. "What I set out to do was to find pain receptors in fish like those in higher mammals and humans. If we, as humans, touch a hot iron, we have a reflex to pull away immediately. This is down to things called nociceptors. For the first time we discovered that fish have them too."

The next step was to prove that these nerves reacted in the same way as in other animals when subjected to pain. The trout were subjected to various unpleasant experiences, such as extremes of temperature. The lips of ten fish were also injected with bee venom - a standard substance used to test pain - and also with acetic acid.

"We found that the fish reacted very strangely. They rocked from side to side when injected with bee venom, a rocking motion strikingly similar to that seen in animals and humans suffering stress," she said. "When acetic acid was injected, the gill respiratory rates of the fish doubled and they were seen rubbing their lips against the tank walls. The fish injected with venom also did not eat food until the effects of the experiments subsided. All in all, the results fulfil the criteria for animal pain."

She said that only bony fish such as cod, trout and salmon would show these responses. Previous research on boneless fish, such as stingray, dogfish and shark, which have cartilage, had not shown they had nerves or felt pain in the same way as mammals.

"At present there are no rules on killing fish and I would like to see painkillers used if fish are tagged or have fins clipped to identify them," she said.

"I don't have a problem with people getting fish out of the water quickly, killing them quickly and humanely and taking them home to eat. But people also catch fish and let them go for sport and hold them in keep-nets, and I don't think these are welfare-friendly practices."

The research dips its toes into troubled waters. Although the RSPCA, which is against hunting with dogs, is not opposed to fishing, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), an international organisation, has an aggressive anti-fishing campaign.

Dawn Carr, of Peta, said that the latest research strengthened the organisation's position. "Fish may not be cute and cuddly but it does not mean they can't feel pain just like dogs and cats," she said. "If you're angling for entertainment, or on fish farms, or the sea, the animals are suffering. Just because the suffering undergone by a fish in your fish and chips is out of sight does not mean it isn't real."

Peta has run a series of adverts calling for a ban on fishing, one of which featured an image of a dog with a hook in its mouth.

In February 2001 Peta wrote to Scottish Natural Heritage demanding a ban on plans to capture the Loch Ness Monster with fishing nets. Recently it has complained about a government-backed scheme called Hooked on Fishing, which aims to get troubled youths off the streets.

"You have to question the wisdom of this scheme, which gets these boys to engage in a violent activity," Ms Carr said.

Other groups have gone further, turning canals and riverbanks into something of a battleground. Clare Persey, an activist for the Campaign for the Abolition of Angling, snapped a competitor's rod at the European angling championships in 2001 then jumped into the Trent to disrupt the competition.

In March 2001 animal welfare protesters wearing balaclavas and armed with baseball bats and pickaxe handles terrorized a disabled angler fishing on the Granta, near Harston, Cambridgeshire. Peter Rainbow, 62, was alone when about 20 demonstrators began shouting abuse such as "How would you like a hook through your mouth?" through loudhailers. They fled when he called the police.

On January 11, 2001, a letter bomb packed with nails exploded at a fish and chip restaurant in Holywell, North Wales. No group admitted responsibility, but a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front said at the time that fish-and-chip shops would be considered "legitimate targets" for animal welfare protesters.

"Fish are dragged out of the water into an alien environment in which they slowly die. There is no pretence of humane slaughter," the group said.

The National Federation of Anglers rejected these claims, citing a report released in February by Professor James Rose, at the University of Wyoming. It claimed that although fish responded to a threatening stimulus, as shown in yesterday's report, this was not the same as them feeling pain.

Bob Clark, of the federation, said that he supported Professor Rose's findings. "Anglers have known all along that fish do not feel pain, or certainly not pain as other animals know it," Mr Clark said.

"To attribute the same sensory reaction to fish as you would to mammals is not supported in science at all. Even this report says not that fish feel pain, but that they 'could' feel pain."

Dr Bruno Broughton, a fish biologist and scientific adviser to the federation, said: "I doubt that it will come as much of a shock to anglers to learn that, when their lips are injected with poisons, fish respond and behave abnormally.

"However, it is an entirely different matter to draw conclusions about the ability of fish to feel pain, a psychological experience for which they, literally, do not have the brains."

More ignorant rubbish from a reporter in the Times:

The Times
May 01, 2003
We should ignore this codswallop hook, line and sinker
By Ross Clark

If the piranha fish charged with the task of dispatching Dr Goldfinger's adversaries could speak, their last words to Mr Bond would be: "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." However much their gormless expressions might tempt us to think otherwise, fish can, and do, feel pain, according to Lynne Sneddon, head of animal biology at the University of Liverpool. She says she has found evidence of "pain receptors" in trout and proved that they work by injecting bee venom into the lips of the poor creatures and watching them writhe in agony.

Unsurprisingly, the angling lobby, which has long suspected that its sport would be the next to be targeted by animal rights' activists, has reacted angrily. "Anglers have known all along that fish do not feel pain or certainly not pain as other animals do," says Bob Clark, of the National Federation of Anglers. "To attribute the same sensory reaction to fish as you would to mammals is not supported in science at all."

When I hear anglers use the language of cod science - if you will pardon the expression - I know their sport is doomed. There is little point in them involving themselves in the philosophical debate over piscine intelligence. Much as I dislike the RSPCA, I can't fault the statement by its senior scientific officer, Penny Hawkins: "All vertebrates should be given the benefit of the doubt and assumed to be capable of suffering."

If anglers want to save their sport, they should say instead: "Fish can feel pain? So what?" The truth is that it impossible for us to go about our business without some little creature biting the dust. If one takes the arguments of animal rights' activists to their logical conclusion, it is unethical for humans to do anything other than lie still and wait for rodents and microbes to feast on us.

I can't remember from school biology lessons exactly how many bacteria are supposed to die every time we place a foot on the ground, but I am sure it was up in the millions. Who is to say that they, too, cannot feel anything as their bodies are ground by our boots?

And think of all the little bugs and beetles run down every time an animal rights activist climbs on his bike and pedals off to a meeting of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). God help the cycling lobby when scientists discover evidence of pain receptors in arthropods. (Ed shows the level of stupidity this reporter will go to and his complete lack of any humility).

As Dr Sneddon's work leaves it, bony fish such as salmon and trout can feel pain but boneless fish cannot. For some class warriors, that is very convenient, because it provides a justification for eliminating the sport of toffs while still allowing the common man his skate and chips.

But the science of animal suffering certainly isn't going to end there. It might not even end with animals. Plants, too, have rudimentary sensory devices; it is thanks to a sense of touch that bindweed is able to wind itself around your drainpipe. If touch, why not feeling, and if not feeling, why not pain? If you are prepared to believe that a codfish can feel a hook stuffed through its cheek, it is illogical to deny the possibility that your lawn cannot feel a thing when you attack it with your Flymo.

Once Peta has had its way and we are all leading impeccably vegan lives, it won't take a minute for that organisation to transform itself into People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables. We have a choice.

Either we go along with the fundamentalist approach to animal rights and commit ourselves to banning fishing, along with everything else that science may one day rule is unkind to some beast or other. Or we carry on fishing, accept the inevitability of animal suffering and comfort ourselves with the thought: "What the hell? It's a jungle out there."

I'd like to see this man survive a day in the jungle - without a gun - It is not a jungle and we as human beings can live and thrive without consuming the flesh of any living being.

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