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ANIMAL CRUELTY - FISH

Human Cruelty Towards Animals -- Even Fish -- Shouldn't Be Joked About

January 4, 2002

Continuing what seems to be developing into a Friday night habit, I'll turn from examining the myriad ways in which humans inflict unspeakable horrors on each other, to the related, equally grim subject of human violence against animals. (With a cheerful opening paragraph like that, I'm not sure even I would want to continue reading.  But for those intrepid souls with boundless compassion in their hearts...read on:)

I've wanted to comment on this one-paragraph Reuters item ever since I saw it:

FINLAND: A TRUE FISH STORY  A fishmonger was fined almost $200 by a Helsinki court for allowing his fish to suffer while on sale at a local market, the Kauppalehti newspaper reported. A veterinarian took Magnus Ekstrom to court, complaining that his burbots were moving their gills and wiggling around on the shop counter, suffering from unnecessary pain. Mr. Ekstrom whacked his fish to prove they were dead, but when the fish continued to flop around the veterinarian called the police, who arrived with wailing sirens, the newspaper said. "I think I am the only fisherman in Europe, no, in the entire world, that has been convicted with a thing like this," Mr. Ekstrom said.    (Reuters)

I was struck by the somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone of the writing.  How silly, those Finns worrying about a fish flopping on a fishmonger's counter!

A bit of personal history: I went fishing only once.  This was in my teens, long before I became a vegan, indeed at a time when I thought vegetarians were idiots.  But once turned out to be quite enough.

On that fishing trip, I first knew I wasn't going to be a master angler when I couldn't bring myself to put the worm on the hook. (Okay, while it's true that had I been holding the worm I wouldn't have been able to impale it on the metal barb, to be honest, I didn't even want to pick up the yucky worm!)

Another guy on the boat put the worm on the hook after I made some excuse about not knowing the correct way to do so.  During the day of fishing, no fish bit at my bait.  But others I was with did catch some trout, I think it was.  And that's when I first saw up close a fish with a hook in its mouth, and realized how cruel that was.  I never doubted that the fish could feel the pain from being cut like that.

After my friends would catch a fish, they would put it in a pail of water.  I believe that was so the fish would stay alive, and fresh, until slaughtering time.  However, I noticed that other fishermen around us would leave their fish flopping around in their boats.  Again, no great animal rights activist at the time was I, but still, I couldn't help thinking that the fish were suffering terribly, a seemingly slow death by suffocation.

Which brings us to Mr. Ekstrom, the Finnish fishmonger.  That's exactly what was happening to his fish, they were flopping around, suffocating, and a veterinarian confronted Ekstrom.  After Ekstrom somewhat ludicrously claimed that the fish were actually dead, the vet called the police, took Ekstrom to court, and prevailed.  The Helsinki judge fined Ekstrom nearly $200.

Ekstrom's punishment is fully justified:

Scientific reports from around the world substantiate the fact that fish feel pain... Hooked fish struggle out of fear and physical pain. Once fish are brought out of their environment and into ours, they begin to suffocate. Often their gills collapse and the swim bladder can rupture due to the sudden change in pressure on their bodies.

Is it really true that while in the United States, elephant trainers can get away with drawing blood from their animals by jabbing them with metal hooks, in Finland fish are protected?

I don't know whether this case was a fluke, or whether Finland really does have laws prohibiting cruelty against animals which are both applicable to fish and generally enforced.

But there should be such statutes everywhere.  Inflicting pain on sentient creatures -- of any type -- is wrong, period.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

More on Animal Rights

fish suffocatefish can feel pain

 
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