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PETA - again!

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Tue Nov 16, 4:05 PM ET


By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer


NEW YORK - Touting tofu chowder and vegetarian sushi as alternatives, animal-rights activists have launched a novel campaign arguing that fish - contrary to stereotype - are intelligent, sensitive animals no more deserving of being eaten than a pet dog or cat.


Called the Fish Empathy Project, the campaign reflects a strategy shift by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as it challenges a diet component widely viewed as nutritious and uncontroversial.


"No one would ever put a hook through a dog's or cat's mouth," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of vegan outreach. "Once people start to understand that fish, although they come in different packaging, are just as intelligent, they'll stop eating them."


The campaign is in its infancy and will face broad skepticism. Major groups such as the American Heart Association (news - web sites) recommend fish as part of a healthy diet; some academics say it is wrong to portray the intelligence and pain sensitivity of fish as comparable to mammals.


"Fish are very complex organisms that do all sorts of fascinating things," said University of Wyoming neuroscientist James Rose. "But to suggest they know they what's happening to them and worry about it, that's just not the case."


PETA, headquartered in Norfolk, Va., has campaigned for years against sport fishing, challenging claims by Rose and others that fish caught by anglers do not feel pain. PETA also has joined other critics in decrying the high levels of mercury or other toxins in many fish and the pollution discharged by many fish farms.


The Empathy Project is a departure in two respects - attempting to depict the standard practices of commercial fishing as cruel and seeking to convince consumers that there are ethical reasons for not eating fish.


"Fish are so misunderstood because they're so far removed from our daily lives," said Karin Robertson, 24, the Empathy Project manager and daughter of an Indiana fisheries biologist. "They're such interesting, fascinating individuals, yet they're so incredibly abused."


The project was inspired by several recent scientific studies - widely reported in Britain but little-noticed in the United States - detailing facets of fish intelligence.


Oxford University researcher Theresa Burt de Perera, for example, reported that the blind Mexican cave fish is able to interpret water pressure changes to construct a detailed mental map of its surroundings.


"Most people dismiss fish as dimwitted pea-brains. ... Yet this is a great fallacy," wrote University of Edinburgh biologist Culum Brown in the June edition of New Scientist. "In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of 'higher' vertebrates, including non-human primates."


Chris Glass of the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences in Massachusetts led another recent study, showing how North Sea haddock developed abilities to avoid trawlers' nets.


"There's no doubt that fish of all shapes and forms are capable of learning fairly complex tasks," Glass said. "They can learn from their environment and experience."


Yet Glass declined to endorse the don't-eat-fish appeals.


"We don't want to be caught between warring factions," he said. "We're interested in helping the fisheries industry do a responsible job."


To press their argument, PETA activists plan demonstrations starting next month at selected seafood restaurants nationwide. PETA also will urge changes in commercial fishing practices, for example proposing that trawler crews stun fish before cutting them up.


Friedrich questioned why there is popular support for sparing marine mammals - dolphins and porpoises - yet minimal concern for species like tuna, "whose suffering would warrant felony animal cruelty charges if they were mammals."


Fish-welfare rules would be a new realm for U.S. commercial fishermen. The National Fisheries Institute, which represents them, has pledged to help sustain fish stocks but its members have never faced cruelty regulations regarding their catch.


"It's irresponsible to discourage people from eating fish at a time when doctors and dietitians advise eating it twice a week," said institute president John Connelly. "If anything, we should be eating more fish."


Friedrich acknowledges the difficulty of changing long-held customs, but thinks his project is worthwhile. "We'd rather go too far than not far enough," he said.



"Step away from the fish & drop the fillet knife"


[ 11-17-2004, 10:22 AM: Message edited by: Joe ]

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Things like this are the reason I tell my wife we should move to a cabin in Maine with no TV or internet. She thinks I'm exaggerating when I say I could be happy never seeing another human being for a year. Whay can't people just leave everyone alone?

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I've seem some catfish that appear to be smart and have memory, but I swear I've caught the same bass and bluefish more than once, so they must be OK to fish for.

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I don't eat fish because they are intelligent or dumb. I don't know and don't care whether they are smart.


I eat 'em 'cause they TASTE GOOD! If it should be one day proven that they are completely unintelligent and not aware in the least of their environment and incapable of feeling pain, t'ain't no biggie to me. Or if they are proven to be highly intellectual and suffer mightily when caugt, then I'll just consider them as "brain food" and increase my fish consumption.


Fish are, like almost every other living creature on earth, part of the food chain and will, like all other members of the food chain, continue to be eaten by higher life forms...INCLUDING human beings.


Peta...go away!

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Things like this are the reason I tell my wife we should move to a cabin in Maine with no TV or internet.


I gots me a spare room that ya can rent, iff'en ya want. HappyWave.gif


Oops, turns out we DO, in fact, have internet - sorry redface.gif

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