Fish are smart, social animals with their own unique personalities, and just like dogs, cats, and humans, they feel pain. Scientists who study pain are in complete agreement that the fish pain response is basically identical to that of mammals and birds.
Did you know that fish can learn to avoid nets by watching members of their group and that they can recognize individual “shoal mates”? Some fish gather information by eavesdropping on others, and some—such as the South African fish who lay eggs on leaves so that they can carry them to a safe place—even use tools.
Sadly, more fish are killed for food each year than all other animals combined. In 2011, for example, more than 22 billion fish and shellfish were killed in the U.S. alone. Sport fishing and angling kill millions more each year. Without any legal protection from cruel treatment, these intelligent, complex animals are impaled, crushed, suffocated, or cut open and gutted, all while they’re fully conscious.
More than half of all the fish consumed each year are now raised on land- or ocean-based aquafarms. On land-based farms, thousands of fish are raised in ponds, pools, or concrete tanks. Ocean-based aquafarms are situated close to shorelines, and fish in these farms are confined to net or mesh enclosures, which are filthy and cramped.
Many fish on aquafarms suffer from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries. Conditions on some farms are so horrendous that millions of fish die before farmers can kill and package them for food. Those who survive are starved before they’re sent to slaughter, in order to reduce waste contamination of the water during transport. Salmon, for example, are starved for 10 full days.
In the wild, billions of fish—along with “nontarget” animals, including sharks, sea turtles, birds, seals, and whales—are caught each year in ocean-ravaging nets or dragged for hours on long-lines for the commercial fishing industry.
No matter how they’re raised or caught, eating fish supports cruelty to animals. Order PETA’s free vegan starter kit for great tips and recipes to help you make the transition to fish-free vegan meals.