Written by PETA
As if overfishing, cruelty, and mercury poisoning weren't enough, here's yet another reason to leave fish off your plate: ciguatera poisoning. Apparently, one of the many unforeseen effects of climate change is the spread of ciguatera, a toxin produced by an organism that grows on coral reefs. Common in large, predatory fish such as snapper, grouper, and barracuda, ciguatera was once confined mostly to the Caribbean, but it has now spread to the waters off Florida, Texas, and the Carolinas and has become one of the most common causes of fish-related food poisoning in the U.S.
Along with the usual nasty symptoms of food poisoning—nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea—ciguatera also causes bizarre neurological symptoms worthy of a House episode: numbness, tingling, needle-like pain in the hands and feet, a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, and sometimes an irregular heartbeat. Ciguatera probably won't kill you, but there is no effective treatment and the symptoms can persist for weeks, months, or even years. Call it "barrakarma."
Written by Alisa Mullins
Shark finning is one of the most disgusting practices of the already disgusting fishing industry. Sharks are caught, their fins are cut off, and they are either left to suffocate or are thrown back into the water to slowly bleed to death or be eaten by other marine animals. All this suffering is inflicted in order to produce horrid "delicacies" such as shark-fin soup.
Worldwide, there is (happily) a movement toward stopping shark finning, but fishing interests in Virginia and North Carolina are, well, swimming against the tide by putting pressure on legislators to exclude some sharks from a proposed federal law banning shark finning.
If you live in North Carolina or Virginia, please contact your senators and ask them to support the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 with no exemptions. To learn about more ways to help sharks and other endangered marine animals, read this and this.
Written by Jeff Mackey
This Sunday is Father's Day, which means that dads who don't know any better may be taking their kids fishing. Anglers run the risk of eating someone's father (or mother) every time they rip a sea kitten out of the water, and that doesn't sound like a very good way to celebrate fatherhood to me.
To help spread the truth about fishing, we sent a former fisher and his giant finned friend to Fort Myers Beach in Florida. Check out the pics, and don't forget to wish your dad a happy Father's Day!
Written by Lianne Turner
Orlando Magic center Dwight "Superman" Howard recently revealed that his favorite movie is Finding Nemo. (Pause for the resounding "aww" as readers imagine this 6' 11" Defensive Player of the Year watching the animal-friendly animated classic.)
While that's great all by itself, Howard has also reportedly said, "Fish are friends." Dwight, we couldn't agree more, and we hope that your kind words will inspire fans and other athletes to realize how awesome sea kittens are.
Maybe Dwight's next step will be to consult John Salley about fish-free cuisine …?
Written by Christine Doré
F is for "fisherman":
noun 1 a person who catches fish for a living or for sport.
noun 1 a person ignorant of, oblivious to, or indifferent to the fact that he or she is inflicting pain by catching, suffocating, stabbing, and gutting fish; someone who is hooked on cruelty.
In light of a new study revealing that fish feel and remember pain, PETA Europe has sent a letter to the folks at Oxford English Dictionary asking that they change their definition of "fisherman" to the rather more accurate version above (that's the second one, in case you weren't sure).
Because a fish sea kitten has a nervous system just as humans do, struggles against death, and has lips that are sensitive to the tearing of flesh caused by hooks, PETA Europe considers the Oxford English Dictionary's current definition of "fisherman" a little--ahem--insensitive. Don't you agree?
Leave a comment below with your suggestion for a new, more accurate definition of "fisherman."
Written by Shawna Flavell
PETA V.P. Bruce Friedrich is an energetic and relentless campaigner with a persistently positive outlook on life. He's also coauthor of the brand new, hot-off-the-press The Animal Activist's Handbook: Maximizing Our Positive Impact in Today's World. In the book, Bruce and coauthor Matt Ball suggest a variety of ways to live a meaningful life through effective and efficient advocacy. In their activism journeys, both men made a few mistakes along the way, and they share their experiences with you so that you don't wind up making the same mistakes yourself!
Bruce was able take a minute away from his vital work for animals to answer a few questions for The PETA Files. I'm hoping that you find his responses as motivational as I did (be sure to check out the most memorable campaigning answer—it's my favorite).
Here Bruce is in his own words:
Your dedication to animal rights is inspiring. Where do you look for inspiration? To activists in the field, holding down full-time jobs and still finding time to leaflet, hold demonstrations, keep "Vegetarian Starter Kit" stands stocked, write letters to the editor, post links to videos online, and so much more.
What's one of your most memorable campaigning stories?My wife, Alka Chandna, and I used our Christmas vacation in 2003 to do a string of anti-KFC protests. On Christmas Day 2003, we dropped off big bags of coal at the homes of KFC's CEO, president, and senior VP for public affairs because they'd been naughty to animals. An over-zealous police officer arrested us for trespassing, even though we were just walking up to the door—like Girl Scouts. The guy was screaming at me about trespassing, and I kept saying, "There's no sign saying we can't be here, we're just knocking on his door to ask him to be nice, rather than naughty, this year." The entire thing was caught on the squad car's video system, and the officer was wearing a microphone, so I have a video of the arrest, and it's just too funny. This was trespass number one, so it's the equivalent of a minor speeding ticket. The guy was behaving like Rambo over the equivalent of going 56 in a 55 zone.
If you had the power to change one person's stance on animal rights whose would it be and why? I'd change Bill Gates into a hardcore animal rights activist, so that he would dedicate most of his billions to promoting animal rights. Everyone agrees that causing animals to suffer needlessly is immoral. Of course, eating or wearing animals is absolutely needless. All we really need to do is get people to live according to their values—to be consistent. But we need to educate people so that they think about this reality, and if we had billions of dollars to dedicate to the cause, we could create a vegan U.S. in a very short period of time.
What's one campaigning moment that made you want to say FML? I have a selective memory that focuses on the positive and forgets the negative, so Ingrid calls me Bruce Poppins. Anyway, I can't think of anything other than glorious campaigning moments. Even when things go wrong (like when our Japanese intern who spoke almost no English ended up in the back of a squad car at a demonstration—she was subsequently released without charge), I tend to find that funny rather than dispiriting. I ran into a tree on my bike commute into work today and got a massive gash under my eye and on my shoulder, and all I could think was, "I sure am glad I still have my eye."
Is your family supportive of your animal rights activism? What would you say to someone who feels his or her family isn't supportive? My family is very supportive. I would say not to worry about your family. So many people spend inordinate amounts of time trying to change their family, even when it's clear that they are not going to change. Two things: 1) every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It's only natural that if you're pushing your family, they may push back, for a variety of reasons—they feel judged by you, they don't understand how you could make such a big change without them, whatever. Once you stop focusing on them, you may find that your family finds it easier to pay attention and come along, because once you stop pushing, they stop pushing back. 2) If you convert one person to vegetarianism, you save 100 animals per year, whether that is a family member or some stranger on the street. Take the energy you would have spent on your family and go convert 10 other people who aren't pushing back instead.
How hard is it to find vegan food on the road? What cities do you like or loathe because of their food options? I mostly eat from grocery stores, and I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mixed nuts, bananas, and bags of pre-washed greens. I can find that stuff anywhere. The only place where I know the restaurants at all is D.C., where I've lived for most of the past 20 years, and I don't know too many here.
If you weren't working for animal rights, what would you be doing? Teaching disadvantaged kids in the inner city or running a homeless shelter (which I did for six years before I joined PETA) or working for Doctors Without Borders or some other global relief organization.
What is the most valuable piece of advice that you could give to someone who wants to start getting active? One person can make a massive difference, and that's deeply empowering—if you convince one person to adopt a vegetarian diet, you've just spared 100 animals per year from misery that is beyond our worst imaginings. A few hours spent leafleting, one letter to the editor, one good conversation, one vegetarian hotline bumper sticker on your car—there are so many things you can do, little and big, that will mean life or death for thousands of animals. Do it!
Looking for a bit more Bruce in your life (after that interview, aren't we all)? Head on over to our Action Center and listen to him on PETA's podcast. Oh, and then buy his book.
You know, very few things will bother vegetarians like assuming that we eat fish. Um, so, like, what plant is it exactly that you think fish grow on?
By saying "you," I don't mean you, of course. After all, you already understand that fishing hurts, and you're totally down with lobster liberation, right? And you've made it clear to your friends and family where you stand. But they still guilt you into going along to that seafood place they like, saying, "OK, you don't eat fish or lobster, but why can't you have the calamari?"
First of all, "calamari" is one of those nice-sounding words that restaurants use to sell something not so nice—in this case, chopped-up and baby squid. But it can be hard for people to feel a lot of affection for a squid. They live way down underwater, and even baby squid—unlike, say, chicks or piglets—aren't all that cute, to put it mildly. But what they lack in looks is more than compensated for in fascinating ways. If you don't believe me, check out this video:
Anyone who has ever tried to chat up someone in a bar has to stand in awe of the squid's smooth seduction technique, which simultaneously warns rivals to stay away. Not to mention the deep-sea light shows and color-changing camo effects of the jellyfish, octopuses, and cuttlefish that put Industrial Light & Magic to shame. In fact, this stuff is so amazing that you can easily get your friends and family to watch it just for its entertainment value—and then remind them of it the next time you join them for dinner as you explain why you'll all be going to your favorite restaurant instead.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.