Fish can suffer extreme cruelty as much as any other animal destined for our plates. They may be dragged for hours behind trawlers and crushed to death in nets. Commercial fishing nets, comprised of thin mesh, slice into the flesh of many fish, causing blood loss and strangling them. When they’re dragged from the ocean depths, they undergo excruciating decompression, often resulting in ruptures to their swim bladders, eyes popping out, or their stomachs being pushed through their mouths. When they’re hauled onto ships, they slowly suffocate on board.  Others experience having their throats and bellies sliced open while still conscious, or are thrown into freezers where they will suffer prolonged deaths.

According to studies, finned fishes and crustaceans (crabs and lobsters) can feel pain. Dr. Donald Broom, animal welfare adviser to the British government, has stated that, “Anatomically, physiologically, and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.” It’s a sobering thought to keep in mind next time we’re tempted to order lobster or crab, considering how they are prepared. Really, none escape suffering.

Since the commercial fishing industry has emptied the oceans of specific targeted fish, the seafood industry is consequently raising fish in contained fish farms (aquaculture), using tanks on land or cages in the ocean.  Tightly packed fish repeatedly bump into walls and each other, which in turn causes painful sores and damage to fins. Since they’re forced to live in their own waste with thousands of other fish, the tremendous amount of feces in their enclosures leads to outbreaks of disease and parasites.  To keep the fish alive in these conditions, large quantities of chemicals and antibiotics are poured into the water (guess who ultimately ends up ingesting these?). When fully grown, the fish are killed by having their stomachs cut open or they suffocate when the water in the tanks is drained away. Larger fish like tuna are killed by repeated stabbing. Many, such as catfish, are skinned alive, dying from shock.

The commercial fishing industry has wreaked havoc on the environment and caused irreversible damage.  To find out more about the suffering and environmental devastation that fish farms cause, visit PETA.org/Fishing.

Those who eat fish for health reasons should be aware that the EPA revealed that women who ate fish twice a week had seven times the blood mercury concentrations than those of women who avoided fish. Mercury is known to cause severe health problems which include memory loss, brain damage, and damage to a developing fetus.  The PCBs, mercury, and other toxins found in fish can remain in your body for many years.

Reconsidering our food choices involves making the decision of whether or not we want to be complicit in the extreme suffering and misery of other living, feeling beings. Eating animals and their byproducts is essentially paying others to commit acts of cruelty for you for a momentary taste on the lips, at the cost of another’s life.  The question of adequate protein intake is usually raised by those who are not vegetarian/vegan.  Surprisingly, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegetarians do not have higher levels of anemia than meat-eaters do.  The consequences of eating a high protein diet has been compared to pouring acid on your bones, due to the damage it can inflict.

For those concerned about getting adequate protein, there is some protein in just about every food; in any case, the necessary protein requirement guidelines previously established have been cited as being too high.  Numerous nutritional experts have advocated that a vegan diet is the choice of eating for good health, weight maintenance and disease prevention.  If you want to cut down or eliminate animals/fish from your diet, Vegan Outreach and Peta offer plenty of great information and guidance as well as additional referrals to other information sources. You can also contact Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM@PCRM.org) to request “The Protein Myth” article.

Another compelling reason to examine what we choose to eat is the factory farming contribution to global problems that will impact the future of the earth and its inhabitants. Let’s consider the rising temperatures and sea levels, the melting icecaps and glaciers, the shifting weather patterns and ocean currents.  Climate change is the most serious challenge facing us today.  It’s undeniable if you look around at what has been transpiring all over the world, these last number of years.  The livestock sector is a MAJOR player and is responsible for higher gas emissions than even the transport industry.

To quote my friend, esteemed Professor Tom Regan, “In a democracy like ours, the will of the majority (usually) is where the power is.  That’s our challenge: to make animal rights the perspective of the majority.  All of us — you and I — will be needed to make this happen.”  And by doing so, we are taking control of our own health, our environment and the future of our families.  WE must take the responsibility for our welfare, our earth and the creatures who live among us and who value their lives as much as we value our own.  I propose that we build upon the movement towards a more compassionate society by encouraging a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.  The rewards are many.

– Annoula Wylderich

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