PETA Releases Gruesome Footage in Call to End Fairfax Youth Fishing Derbies

Fishing Teaches Kids Cruelty When Compassion Should Be the Lesson

For Immediate Release:
July 23, 2013

David Perle 202-483-7382

Fairfax, Va. –- The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) has sponsored two youth fishing derbies this season in Reston, Va., most recently on July 20—so now, armed with video footage of fish at the “catch-and-release” event bleeding and suffocating to death in full view of young children, PETA and parents are calling for the FCPA to adopt a ban on future youth fishing tournaments.  

Responding to an earlier letter from PETA, the FCPA has given the group its assurance that “[y]outh fishing tournaments should always promote ethical fishing techniques.” However, PETA’s video—”Teaching Kids to Kill”—which was filmed surreptitiously during the June 1 event, reveals fish killed and discarded to float motionless and bloody in the water; a man jamming pliers into a fish’s sensitive mouth, forcing a hook through the animal’s lip and leaving gaping wounds; and a fish flopping on the grass and gasping and suffocating for lack of air, among other examples of animal suffering. The video also illustrates how the event totally disregards children’s natural empathy for animals: One young boy asks if the fish he had caught would live and wonders how long fish can survive without water, but his questions—and his compassion for animals—are brushed aside.

“These fishing tournaments teach kids that it’s OK to bully and hurt other living beings just because they’re helpless, smaller, weaker, and a bit different from us,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman, the mother of a 9-year-old boy. “There’s no excuse for the cruelty seen in PETA’s video, and there’s no excuse for the park authority to cater to fishing interests by allowing these events in county parks.”

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PETA’s letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority follows.


July 23, 2013


Charles Smith, Manager
Natural Resource Management and Protection Branch
Fairfax County Park Authority


Dear Mr. Smith:

I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to follow up on our request that your division halt youth fishing derbies in your parks and to give you some new information. When we last heard from you, you stated that you supported the events and that “[y]outh fishing tournaments should always promote ethical fishing techniques.” You also said that a “short seminar” on responsible fishing would be a part of the day’s activities. Yet PETA staff were present at one of the events and documented fish clearly suffering. Furthermore, the brief talk about so-called “ethical fishing techniques” was given after the fishing had ended. Regardless of anything you could say during such a seminar, fishing is inherently cruel. Given this new information, will you now reconsider and ban youth fishing tournaments in your parks?

Our 90-second video of the youth fishing derby is anything but family-friendly. The footage shows animals gasping for air and struggling as metal hooks are wriggled out of their mouths, often causing open wounds. They are roughly handled, almost surely damaging their delicate protective coating, which is critical to their survival against bacteria and parasites. Although the event was “catch and release,” many fish died slowly in full view of PETA staff. And this doesn’t include the many fish who no doubt perished out of sight. Researchers at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation found that as many as 58 percent of fish released after being caught died within six days.

Children are naturally compassionate and curious, trusting adults to teach them right from wrong. Yet children at this event repeatedly asked adults if the fish were in pain or would survive, only to be brushed off as their “catch” was measured and handled, each second prolonging the animal’s painful suffocation. If children at the fishing derby learned anything at all, it was that it’s OK to inflict pain and suffering on someone who is different from them.

As I detailed in my previous letter (and as our video reinforces), fish are biologically capable of suffering to the same degree that dogs and cats are. It is no more acceptable to torment them than it is to do the same to the animals we share our homes with. May I please hear that you will cancel future youth fishing tournaments in your parks, in light of this new information? Feel free to contact me at the number below with any questions.

Thank you for your consideration.


Alicia Woempner
Special Projects Division Manager

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