Animal Aid

Fish do feel pain

Posted 27 April 2009

A new study reported in the national media today (27th April) suggests - once again - that fish do feel pain. This latest research adds to the growing scientific consensus that recognises fish as sentient creatures.

As long ago as the 1980s, Dutch researchers found that carp hooked on a tight line were prepared to starve themselves of food for quite some time afterwards to avoid the painful experience.

In 1996, the government’s own advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), stated in a report on fish farming that fish have all the nerve chemicals and cell receptors necessary to experience pain and stress. FAWC based this finding on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature. And a great deal of additional evidence for fish sentience has come forward since. In 2003, a team of scientists from the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh found that fish showed marked reactions when exposed to harmful substances.

In killing experiments - carried out on behalf of the Dutch government and the fish industry - researchers found that after being gutted, 25-65 minutes elapsed before fish were incapable of feeling pain. In the case of asphyxiation, the time interval was 55-250 minutes.

Despite this, there are no welfare standards for killing of ocean-caught fish. Killing methods currently in use allow exsanguination (bleeding out) without prior stunning, resulting in convulsions and muscular spasms. Fish may also be clubbed, gassed or asphyxiated. Others have their gills cut and bleed to death. Some are gutted alive.

Many people decide to stop eating animals, such as pigs, sheep, chickens and cows, but carry on eating fish in the mistaken belief that fish are incapable of feeling pain. However, as this new research and many past studies conclude, there is enough evidence to give fish the benefit of the doubt and eliminate them from the menu. There are no nutrients in fish that cannot be obtained from plant-based sources.

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