Over the past few years, there has been a controversy, which has been fueled by conflicting research on fish welfare, which is summed up by one question: Do fish feel pain?
What do we know so far?
A very interesting debate took place in 2014 between the University of Penn biologist, Victoria Braithwaite and Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, on BBC Newsnight. Armstrong, as expected, rejected the idea that fish deserve prosperity laws and insisted that the majority of scientific evidence shows that fish do not feel pain. On the other hand, the biologist called upon new studies of the past 15 years showing that fish, like mammals and birds, experience pain. It might differ from that of mammals, but as she claims, it's certain.
This is obviously one of the hundreds of issues where both opposing views appear to be backed by scientific evidence.
Perhaps the most important research that concludes that fish cannot experience pain took place at the University of Wyoming. In this study, presented in the scientific journal «Fish and Fisheries», fish are considered to have insufficient brain "wiring", and that the fish flopping, when they're hooked, occurs mostly because of a reflex involuntary reaction, rather than the pain they experience.
The lead researcher, Dr James Rose, pointed out that the trout which was studied, as well as other fish, have a much smaller number of specific nociceptors (C-fibres), responsible for the feeling of pain, as well as underdeveloped neocortex. This led him to the conclusion that either they don't feel pain or that they experience it very differently and less painfully than humans.
Their study is indeed substantial and scientifically correct. However, it's based on only one parameter: the anatomophysiological comparison of the fish's nervous system in relation to mammals' nervous system, and not, for example, on their reactions, their behavior, like the studies we'll present below.
But how can studies be conducted, experiments planned to answer this question? Fish have no voice, they don't grimace, nor can they express the pain they may feel, in a way we can understand.
While the vegan community may rely on the results of animal experiments to confirm its ethical views, it is very important to note that it is against conducting these experiments.
Scientists such as Lynne Sneddon, a biologist at the University of Liverpool and one of the world's leading experts on fish pain, were able to design and execute clever and pioneering experiments, with very interesting results.
Specifically, she created two aquariums. One completely barren and the other containing gravel, a plant, and visibility to other fish. She used a species of fish, the zebrafish, that was able to choose which of the two aquariums it would like to be in. All the fish chose to spend their time in the most decorated tank, as it was more appealing to them and resembled their natural environment. However, when acid was injected into their preferred aquarium and lidocaine was added to the adjacent aquarium, they abandoned the rich reservoir.
In a variation of the experiment, instead of adding the painkiller into the empty aquarium, they provided it directly to the fish so that they could absorb it, regardless of the aquarium in which they swim. The fish then remained in the rich aquarium of their original choice. It's obvious that only when the potential pain was relieved did the fish return to their normal behavior.
Similar conclusions are reached when acid and morphine are simultaneously injected into fish. Like all analgesics, morphine suppresses the experience of pain but does nothing to remove the source of the pain itself, indicating that the change in fish behavior due to the addition of acid, reflects stress that can only be attributed to the feeling of pain. In the absence of morphine, the fish rubbed their nose in the soil and had convulsions due to the presence of acid in their environment! In the presence of morphine, these behaviors vanished.
There is also more recent anatomical information showing the existence of specific damage detection neurons (changes in temperature, pressure, chemicals, etc.). What's more, the production of natural painkillers (natural opiates), as in terrestrial vertebrate animals, was discovered, information that was omitted from the first studies.
Now the evidence is too many and they are constantly increasing. Many people now accept the existence of pain in fish, equivalent of mammals'. Remember that the death of fish is much more agonizing and slow than any other animal's (fish can remain alive, flopping out of the water for up to four hours).
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We are talking about genocide
Many countries around the world do not usually provide the kind of legal protection provided to farm animals, laboratory animals and pets. The numbers are shocking: 70 billion terrestrial animals are killed each year around the world for food, while about 100 billion fish are raised (and therefore killed) in fish farms alone. At the same time, approximately a trillion fish are caught in their natural habitat, from which not even half are consumed. That is, the number of fish killed each year far exceeds the number of people who have ever walked the Earth!
Nowadays, more and more people think that the death of fish should be less painful, but on the one hand, technically there is no other way, on the other hand, the cost is too high.
The vegan lifestyle and view of things clearly stand against killing, even & #8220; painless & #8221; any animal.
In 2013, the American Veterinary Medical Association published new animal euthanasia guidelines, which included the following statements: “Suggestions that fish responses to pain simply represent reflexes have been contradicted. [...] The majority of the accumulated evidence supports the view that fish should have the same assessments as terrestrial vertebrates, regarding pain relief. " Although this statement is far from the vegan way of thinking, the ascertainment of such an association, that fish should at least be treated with the terrestrial animals' welfare criteria is a good start.
We should mention some books and studies that can give more light to this subject, such as & #8220; Will Fish Feel Pain? & #8221; (& #8220; Fish Feeling Pain? & #8221;), by Victoria Braithwaite, Professor of Fisheries and Biology at Pennsylvania State University. In addition, Victoria Braithwaite is one of the authors of a 2003 study that reported that fish have complex enough anatomy to make them feel pain and discomfort. In one report she claims that the pain they experience is equivalent to human newborns and premature babies.
But also the magazine Hakai published an extensive tribute titled, & #8220; Fish feel pain. Now what? & #8221; (& #8220; Fish Feel Pain. And Now What? & #8221;)which was republished by the magazine Smithsonian with a more challenging title, & #8220; It & #8217; s official: Fish Feel Pain & #8221;.
Νo one can connive any more. Fish seem to consciously experience pain. But they cannot express it in a way that's comprehensible to us, even though their flopping and the open mouth rightly makes us compare these reactions with similar agonizing reactions of people drowning. They are killed by millions, with a stressful, painful and slow death. We should all focus on these wonderful voiceless creatures as well. Can you imagine their suffering?