Quite a while ago I wrote a post about the ethical reasons to not consume meat. For me, meat means dead flesh of an animal. Any animal. This includes fish. However, the question ‘do you eat fish?’ is something vegetarians hear often. Quite compelling since there is a special name for this diet. It’s a ‘pescatarian’ diet. This question implies that people don’t see fish as meat, which is incorrect. However, I did choose to write a separate post about fish today. I am telling you about the ethical reasons against fish consumption.
In the meantime I’ve gone vegan too, since I believe all exploitation of animals is morally wrong. I do not eat any animal, nor the milk, eggs or any other products they produce. I also don’t use animal for other types of exploitation, like entertainment or beauty products. If you’re a vegetarian or pescatarian reading this, please consider diving into those subjects too. You’ve already made a big step towards living with compassion, I hope you want to expand this even more. Anyhow, today as I said, is about fish. Here are the ethical reasons against fish consumption:
1 An Animal Dies
This argument is the same as for all other animals. If you consume fish, you kill a living being. It might be a small animal sometimes, like Herring, or big, like Tuna, but it’s still an animal. This is something to think about when you make a decision, you are taking a life of someone. Someone who wants to live just as badly as you do. A fish is not willing to die for you, he or she has no choice. It’s not like a fish jumps out of the water to present itself to you. He or she fights for its life. And don’t think of a fish being any less than other animals.
Fish have a nervous system and so they feel pain. It’s simple as that. They are sentient and can experience fear just like we do. Mind you, this also goes for marine life like crabs or shrimps. Science is very clear about this, the animals we eat from the sea are equal to all other animals.
2 Slow Death
Fish are even more out of sight than other animals we eat. We do not relate to fish like we relate to cows or sheep. That’s because the capture of fish happens in places we have never been. In a way this is the same as with land animals too, since most of us have never been inside a pig farm or a slaughter house. This capturing and slaughter of fish is something most people have never seen or heard about. And so I will tell you about it, because it’s horrible. It’s a slow death. Since fish can only breath under water, they will slowly suffocate when you catch them from the water. It takes up to 15 minutes, 15 minutes of suffocation. Imagine that. If suffocation at land does not kill the fish yet, they are cut open alive. This is a common practice at ships, called stripping.
But this suffocation only happens if fish are still alive when they are brought up to the surface. Most fish are caught with immense nets, pushing all the fish together by the tons. They often die because they are unable to breathe being crowded all together. Being crushed so tight, their intestines come out and they die. Their intestines also come out often because of the difference in water pressure when fish are brought to the surface. Another common practices is long-line fishing, where a long line is set out at sea. Fish bite into (often alive) bate on this line and then suffer for hours until they die (since they’re under water they do not suffocate, they just suffer). Meanwhile, these fish are slowly eaten by other predators, making them suffer even more.
This endless suffering also happens because of ghostnets, nets lost at sea by fishers. Fish and other animals get caught into the nets and die a slow death, often lasting up to a day.
When you eat fish or other sealife, there is always bycatch. That’s because you can’t only fish the animal you want to fish at sea. Dolphins, turtles, seals, sharks and many more die along with the fish. This makes the suffering even larger. When these animals are tossed back into the sea, they are already dead.
4 People Starve
Then there’s always the people aspect. Fishing by rich Europeans, for example the Dutch, happens in massive form all over the globe. Because of our colonial past, we are relatively rich. Consequently, we fish in for example Senegal (and also because the seas close to us are almost empty already). In these areas people are relying on the fish to survive (unlike us). We are therefore making other people starve by eating fish or other sea animals. It’s really a form of colonialism still.
We are also fishing the oceans in such a rate, that scientists say most of them will be empty by 2050. This means starvation for a lot of indiginous people who rely on the fish to survive. They cannot choose to eat something else, we can. Furthermore, empty oceans have implications for all of us. Oceans are carbons sinks, they provide us with 40% of all oxygen.
Additionally, think about the people who have to kill the fish for you. You pay for that act. These people make a living by slaughtering animals. Alike people working in slaughterhouses, this causes mental health issues.
A ‘solution’ to catching fish from the oceans, is growing them in cages. Cages inside the oceans or inside tanks. Here we stack hundreds to thousands of fish together. They can only swim in circles and live in their own feces. It’s a miserable life while they wait to die.
Besides the conditions inside the cages the feed is also a problem. Fish in cages are often fed with, yes, fish. Fish from the oceans. And so, by eating fish from these cages even more fish need to die. If the feed is not fish meal, it’s soy meal just like with land animals. This soy production often comes from tropical rainforests, causing deforestation. Besides, growing fish in cages gives the same problem as growing land animals in cages: it causes diseases. COVID-19 is a great example of what this practices can do. These diseases kill millions of people and we’ve created the problem ourself.
These were some of the most important ethical reasons against fish consumption. In some ways, fish and other marine animals suffer even more than land animals like cows. But in the end, we can and must eradicate all suffering. All this suffering we inflict is unnecessary. We don’t need to eat fish or marine life for our own survival. We can choose to leave them be and eat plants.
An often heard excuse for eating animals is that they aren’t as smart as we are. Intelligence is not a reason to kill, because we would not kill mentally impaired people or babies either. In addition to that, if we’re so smart, why don’t we show compassion? Why do we choose to kill and inflict suffering on others when we don’t have to? There are great vegan fish options out there, try them. Please show compassion for all living beings on this planet, including fish.
Do you know of any more ethical reasons against fish consumption?