Fish farming, dynamite fishing, massive nets baring fish from any chances to escape, fishing by the rod as cruel leaving the catch carelessly discarded when airborne painfully suffocating… images you may be acquainted with.
On my journey one of my ambitions is to walk the trails of lives on the edge, the paths of ignorance flooding the trails of knowledge. This video clip shows how close beauty, joy, negligence, numbness and sadness are in life.
The media noise around the trendy topic of climate change is targeting plastic trash every other day. On television we get confronted with the oceans on which bottles, bags, and all sorts of packaging are drifting along. Plastic in all shapes from all times is floating around the world. Sometimes we hear about the oceans’ forgotten species suffering from the micro-granules which they ingest.
Very recently I again saw a report about fishermen who caught more plastic trash in their nets than obviously fish.
The images were horrifying. Fish gasping for breath, their eyes in sheer panic and distress, their bodies in pain cramping on the deck of the trawler, partly caught in bottles half the body in , half the body out, either the tail or the head sticking out not able to break free. Creatures tortured for the sake of our food supplies being guaranteed.
Amazingly enough the commentator’s words were about the plastic only, not one remark about the agonizing dying fish, weird world and a good example for the self-centered human being having lost the empathy for the other.
Musings about fish seemed most suitable for me during fasting season. Isn’t it fascinating that all monotheistic religious movements have their own fasting rites. They may differ but fish play an essential role in the food chain during this time. Are they minor living beings for us we generally don’t develop warm feeling for?
Men have the impressive property to ignore and feel superior to everything he or she does not understand, doesn’t know anything about. Isn’t this feature of man amazing horrifying.
Why do we lack empathy with these creatures? Is it because we think that they don’t feel anything, and first of all no pain? Do we assume that they don’t suffer when suffocating lying ashore?
We should be considerate and attentive during the period of fasting, but we are not at all when it comes to value the life of fish.
It’s staple food, biomass, it’s legitimate food that we only take are off to guarantee the work of fishermen, the harvest of healthy food for us and other species we then eat. Up to 2.7tn wild fish are caught worldwide every year; a third of which are ground into feed for chickens, pigs and other fish.
The Australian researcher Culum Brown suggests that the sheer scale of the global fishing industry makes the idea of legislating for the humane treatment of fish “too daunting to consider”.
The ethics of all this depend on what fish do or do not experience. It is a question dividing the science community. Scientists are forced to reassess their views in the light of new evidence, and so are we.
Why are we so selfish and arrogant to believe that fish don’t feel pain or don’t know feelings? Why do we disrespect them so much, even though we have no clue about the essence of their being? They belong to the most ancient beings on the globe, they have admirable senses beating us by many miles.
Fish have honed their skills for hundreds of millions of years; humans are just making their acquaintance. Research has shown that various fish show long-term memory, social bonding, parenting, learned traditions, tool use, and even inter-species cooperation. Compared to those, pain and fear are primitive and basic.
Fish were ancestors to all other vertebrates. Their brains were the template for our own brains’ evolution. Lynne Sneddon, director of bioveterinary science at Liverpool University, was the first scientist to discover that fish possess nerves known to convey pain. In 2002, she identified in fish the same nerve types that, in humans, detect painful stimuli. Fish possess pain receptors. Lynne Sneddon showed that pinching and pricking fish activates these nerve fibres. Her research has shown that fish have a strikingly similar neuronal system to mammals. Until 2002, it was generally believed that fish don't have feelings.
Nerves alone are not considered as proof that fish experience pain, but Sneddon showed that fish have the necessary hardware. The software needed to add up to this hardwired proof comes in the form of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Mammals and fish share many identical neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin. In humans these are involved in pain, hunger, thirst and fear, and include opiate-like chemicals that reduce pain.
"How could they not feel?” bristles oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Fish have had a few hundred million years to figure things out.
Maybe we try to change the perspective once in while and see it this way: Some people have wondrous fish-like characteristics – they can think and feel!
The questions we and many scientists ask are relating each and everything to us humans as the top the tree, the iceberg, the topping of the cake, how stupid, how arrogant. We compare other species with our abilities as if there were no better, no more adequate measure than us.
Therefore, when we ask, if fish can feel what a human feels, we imply that this is the best a fish might aspire to.
But as Earle said, fish have senses we humans can only dream about. Try to imagine having taste buds all along your body. Or the ability to sense the electricity of a hiding fish. Or eyes of a deep sea shark. Many fish see four major colors. Humans only see three. Some see polarized light, some see ultraviolet. Some, such as flounders, move their eyes independently, processing two image fields. Archerfish and four-eyed fish see above and below water simultaneously, processing four images. Groupers and others signal with changing skin-color patterns.
The behavioral contextual flexibility is the strongest evidence that – however their brains accomplish it – being a fish certainly feels like something.
Salmon are returning to their birth streams from 1,000 miles away, traveling rapids and falls, feeding bears and eagles, and people too. Their lives are profound, nourishing and metaphorically potent.
But then dive 20 meters into a salmon-farm pen. The salmons' life, one slow cyclone, seemed divorced from instincts, devoid of experience. Repeatedly you get hit head-on by slow-motion salmon in a seeming stupor who made no effort to avoid bumping your face-mask or body. All senses blunted, their existence appeared robbed of meaning. It was not that their lives were over, it was as if they had never lived.