But that state of affairs didn't last long. I'm one of those types who reads everything I can when it comes to subjects that interest me. And in that short window of time I became a pescetarian (someone who eats seafood but not other animals), I slowly began to realize that I had not yet made the transition to a compassionate diet. I read about fish. I learned about the pain and agony they suffer. Many die slow deaths. They live in agony in fish farms. And contrary to what some scientists such as James Rose, a fish neurobiology expert at the University of Wyoming say (Rose said, "the fish brain just hasn't got the hardware to experience pain..." source), fish do, in fact, feel pain.
Today, I stumbled across an article about a restaurant in Sacramento that has recently stopped serving "dancing prawns," much to the happiness of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). As the article explains:
After hearing from PETA that scientific studies show that prawns feel pain, Nishiki Sushi restaurant in Sacramento has informed PETA that it will no longer serve a cruel dish that's often called "dancing prawns." The dish's name is a reference to the writhing that the animals engage in when their protective shells are ripped off and acidic lemon juice is squeezed onto their raw flesh before they are eaten alive. PETA contacted the restaurant after receiving complaints from several patrons. "We [were] not aware that prawn[s] can feel pain," wrote Danny Leung, president of Nishiki Sushi Inc. "[W]e will no longer serve … prawn[s] alive. … Thank you for bringing this to our attention."
There have been numerous studies at universities around the world that clearly demonstrate that fish feel pain. Despite this, there are deniers who insist that the very notion that fish feel pain is pure idiocy. Last year, journalist and regular Slate.com contributor Michael Agger wrote an article reached the following verdict on the issue of fish pain:
What does my gut tell me about fish pain? Not happening. When I reel in a trout, I may be stressing the fish—making it expend precious energy—but it's not howling in agony.
Hard to say whether Agger believes this all the way through, because in the next paragraph, he wrote:
That's not to say that I think fish should be treated cavalierly. Back in the day, whenever I caught a sucker fish (i.e., a carp) in my home stream, I'd pick it up and hurl it onto the railroad tracks. (The justification being that carp are taking up space in the stream that could be used by trout.) I wouldn't do that now. I don't have a good reason why. It's just a vague, gut-level notion that fish should be treated with respect, just as you shouldn't speed up in your car to run over rabbits.
Usually, when pressed, people like Agger, who rationalize and justify - both publicly and in their own minds - inflicting pain on non-human animals, will sheepishly admit something along the lines of, "Welllllllllllll, maybe animals might feel something..." (e.g., stress, fear, momentary panic). But it is not pain. Human beings feel pain. Animals don't.
Tell that to the prawns who writhe in agony. Tell that to lobsters, who scream in boiling pots of water. Tell that to the rainbow trout, who flop and struggle and roll around in a desperate search for the water that is their natural habitat. Tell that to harpooned sharks and whales, who flail and twist and contort in bloody water.
That's not pain you're feeling. Just a little momentary anxiety. As my dentist used to say, "This won't hurt a bit."
My friends, don't buy it. The notion that the "seafood" we eat never felt any pain is but one small piece of a giant mosaic that makes up Fortress Denial. Already, more and more people are waking up to the truth. One year ago at this time, I was chowing down on shrimp, knocking off one of those big rings each night, never even giving a millisecond's thought to the pain that creature experienced. Now, I won't go near 'em. People do learn. People do change.
The change starts with you.