The angler casts his lure, jigs it a few times and a big fish hits. The battle is intense, but after a couple of minutes, a 20-inch fish is flopping helplessly at his feet, gasping for water. He removes the barbed hook and releases the fish. Traumatized and bleeding slightly, it hopefully flees to the depths and recovers.
Now imagine if the angler were to turn around, face the land, cast his lure and see it snapped at and impale a cat or small dog in the mouth. Similarly, he battles that writhing, screaming, anguished animal back to his feet. I recoil from the barbarity of the second scene.
The weight of evidence is accumulating that these two scenarios are probably not so different in terms of the pain and trauma that would be inflicted by both. Fish have both nociceptors, the nerve receptors that sense pain, and also possess the same neurotransmitters that are involved with pain awareness in mammals. Anybody who has ever caught a fish knows that they are not happy about the process.
In light of this evidence, I am seriously questioning if it is moral for me to continue to catch fish for sport, even “catch and release.” Can I morally justify fishing for my enjoyment, when it results in trauma and, most probably, pain to the fish?
(I have framed this discussion solely regarding “catch and release” fishing for sport/pleasure. Fishing strictly for nutritional purposes would be a different discussion.)
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