Animal Aid

Environment Body Attacked for Sponsoring 'Polluting' Angling

Posted 19 August 2005

National campaign group Animal Aid condemns the government conservation body, the Environment Agency, for sponsoring this year's National Fishing Week (August 20th ? 29th). Far from being an environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free pastime, angling subjects fish to suffering and death in the name of 'sport', whilst discarded fishing tackle litters the countryside and kills other riverside wildlife.

The Environment Agency encourages angling because it generates money through the sale of rod licences to anglers as young as 12 years old. This money is then used to manage fisheries: lakes and rivers that are kept stocked by fish purposely-reared for the 'sport'. Part of this management includes preventing natural predators, such as owls, kingfishers and otters, from eating the fish. This may be done by shooting them. How can this be called conservation?

Although some anglers are responsible and take their rubbish ? such as jagged bait cans - home, others do not. Many regularly discard hooks and nylon line, which is non-biodegradable. This can have deadly consequences for wildlife. Birds and ducks often become fatally tangled in the line. Frequently, swans are found with anglers' hooks embedded in their throats. One wildlife sanctuary rescued a swan with five hooks stuck in his throat.

Angling is also cruel to the fish. Many people think that fish don't feel pain, but scientific research from around the world now shows that they feel pain just as mammals do. The government's own official advisory body on farmed animal welfare, the Farmed Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), acknowledge this. Fish start to suffocate when wrenched out of the water and their gills may collapse and bleed as they gasp for air, fighting for their lives. Even if fish are returned to the water, handling by anglers removes the outer protective mucus layer that makes them waterproof, leaving them open to infection, from which they may later die. Sometimes they swallow the hooks, which are often covered in small spikes. This can cause serious injury to their internal organs and result in a painful death.

Many anglers try to justify their cruel sport by claiming that they contribute to conservation, but if fishing were banned tomorrow, how many anglers would still be interested in doing their bit for the countryside? Rather than promoting an activity that kills animals and leaves dangerous debris in our countryside, the Environment Agency should promote programmes to protect wildlife and to keep river habitats free from pollution, degradation and litter ? problems to which many anglers actually contribute.

Notes to Editors

  • Animal Aid campaigns against animal abuse in all its forms and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle. For more info, go to www.animalaid.org.uk. or call 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.
  • The Environment Agency's website states: 'It's our job to look after your environment and make it a better place ? for you, and for future generations.'
  • Hereford and Worcester Swan Aid reports that at least 50 per cent of the accidents and injuries to wildlife that it is called out to deal with are the result of discarded angling tackle.

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