Something Fishy About Fish
Two of the most annoying questions that vegetarians/vegans get asked are: “Do you eat fish?” and “Do you eat chicken?” To add to the misunderstanding, many people who eat fish and chicken actually identify themselves as vegetarians.
Clearing up some of the confusion:
Healthy for humans?
In recent years, with increasing concern over the health risks and cruelty involved in eating cows, sheep, pigs and poultry; fish has been promoted as a healthy alternative by many popular nutrition gurus like Andrew Weil.
Fish’s bodies absorb toxic chemicals in the water around them, and the chemicals become more concentrated as they move up the food chain. Big fish eat little fish, with the bigger fish (such as tuna and salmon) absorbing chemicals from all the other fish they eat. Fish contain contaminants, such as DDT, PCB's, zinc, copper, chromium, nickel and mercury. Most fish caught in the wild comes from sites which contain industrial waste and sewage sludge. The human pathogens in the sludge contaminate fish and are passed back to the consumer. Fish can accumulate up to 9 million times the concentration of toxins in the waters in which they live. Even legally acceptable PCB concentrations accumulating in fatty tissues of fish have been found to cause learning and behavioral difficulties in children. About 40 percent of the fish caught for human consumption worldwide have cancerous or bacterial skin diseases.
Many consumers choose farmed fish to avoid the dangers of wild caught fish. Fish farming shares many of the problems of other intensive animal farming, not only causing suffering to fish, but resulting in pollution of the environment, destruction of wildlife and chemical residue in the meat.
Antibiotics and other drug residues are present in most
farmed fish. Chemicals are used as disinfectants for equipment, antifoulants for cages and pesticides. The most
controversial of these is the organophosphorus
pesticide Dichlorvos (related to military nerve gases
and the most toxic of the
Healthy for the environment?
In addition to the chemicals described above, fish farms
produce organic waste from food pellets and feces which cause mass mortalities
of fish and other wildlife. A
Healthy for wildlife?
The threat of loss of stock to fish-eating predators, results in the widespread destruction of wildlife by fish farmers. Billions of seals, herons, cormorants, dolphins, porpoises and sharks are killed by shooting, trapping or deliberate entanglement.
Methods for commercial fishing:
Trawl nets-Fish caught in trawl nets are often crushed to death under the weight of the catch. Those still alive when they hit the deck of the ship are either allowed to suffocate to death or are gutted while still alive.
Lines- They are up to 400 m long. A large numbers of hooks are attached to branching off lines. The hooks are ripped from fish mouths (which are well-endowed with pain receptors).
Drift nets-Nylon nets hang suspended in the water for up to 30 miles. Fish become trapped by their gills, as do other animals, who often drown when unable to reach the surface to breathe. Drift nets often break free becoming 'ghost nets', an invisible hazard killing many millions of animals.
Bottom trawls-Net bags dragged over the seabed to catch bottom-living fish. They also catch non-target species living on the seabed and rip up plants, destroying the habitat and leaving clouds of silt in the water.
Purse seine nets-Bag-shaped nets pulled behind a boat. Two sides of the net are brought together to enclose the catch. Tuna shoals gather below dolphin pods. In the last 30 years, these nets have drown several million dolphins. More than a fifth of all marine catch is thrown back into the water because it is too small or the wrong species. Unwanted fish and other animals are usually thrown back into the sea dead, injured, or so weakened that they are easily killed by predators.
90 percent of large fish populations have been exterminated in the past 50 years.
“But they are just fish!”
According to biologists, fish have cognitive abilities that often surpass those of nonhuman primates. They can recognize individuals, use tools, and maintain complex social relationships.
Fish communicate with one another through a range of low-frequency sounds—from buzzes and clicks to yelps and sobs that communicate information and emotional states such as alarm or delight and help with courtship.
Fish are not swimming vegetables and vegans/vegetarians do not eat fish.