According to studies, fish in fish farms suffer the most out of all the animals in the animal agriculture industry. Many probably think, “But they are only fish. Aren’t they more like vegetables than animals?” The word “farm” in fish farm alludes more to the cultivation of plants than a place where feeling individuals are raised. Would my fellow inmate have eaten with such a hearty appetite if he had read the latest research on fish? It convincingly shows that fish feel pain, that they have a large capacity for learning, an impressive memory, and that many species of fish can use tools, something that those in science had long believed to be limited to humans.
Would my fellow inmate have looked differently at his pan-fried meal if he had known that fish mediate conflicts? When two cichlids (a species of freshwater fish, often kept in aquariums) fight, another goes between them and breaks up the fight without taking sides. Would the fish have tasted differently if he had known about the masterpieces that certain fish create? The male puffer fish has been observed to make symmetric, artistic patterns in the sand. He can spend hours on his artwork and use shells as decorations. One of the functions of these sand patterns are to attract females and if the romantic invitation is successful, she will lay her eggs in the middle of the artwork.
In recent years, the question of animal rights has progressed. More and more people are reducing or completely ceasing their consumption of meat because they do not want to contribute to the suffering of animals. “I don’t eat meat, just fish,” say more and more. Our lack of empathy towards fish can have something to do with how we cannot hear their screams or see tears in their eyes when their mouths are pierced by hooks or when they are pulled up from the sea. “Fish are always in another element, silent and unsmiling, legless and dead-eyed,” writes Jonathan Saffran Foer in Eating Animals.
Martin Smedjeback, served a one-month prison sentence in November/December 2017 for releasing a fish from a fish farm together with the group, Empty Cages.
Translation from Swedish to English: Sarah Hruby