Fish – is it natural and ethical to eat it?

Is eating fish natural and ethical? We are investigating different foods that humans eat, to see whether it is natural to eat them, and also, if it is ethical.

Coral reef fishes

By Mikhail Rogov (Canon S-60) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I can’t tell you how many times when, as a vegetarian (I am now vegan) I was offered, by my hosts, fish or even chicken as an alternative to meat. It seems that many people believe that fish is not meat. Even the Catholic ritual of abstaining from eating meat on Fridays allows fish to be eaten. Apparently this is because Catholics are required not to spill blood on those days, and most fish do not drip blood when you cut into them.

But, to a vegetarian, or vegan, the fish is a creature like any other that has to die (and suffers in the process) in order to be eaten. However, we will investigate fish as food for the human primate and see what we come up with.

Investigation
Is it natural?

Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) catch, prepare and eat fish. We will not include ocean mammals or shellfish here.

Have you ever tried to catch a fish? Or even hold a freshly-caught live fish? They are quite slippery and very mobile, making it really difficult to hold them. But first you have to catch them. As a natural primate without man-made equipment, it’s not that simple, but people have been known to catch fish bare-handed. It’s called fish, or trout, tickling. You can see a fish caught this way in this video:

See how he put the fish in his shirt to hold it as this gave a better grip on the trout’s skin.

This video shows how close you can get to a fish underwater if you’re careful.

If you’re good, you could even stab a fish with a sharpened stick. So, once you have your fish, how do you kill it without tools? You can leave it out of water to die slowly, whack it on the head with a rock, or pierce its brain with a sharp stick.

Then, eating it is relatively simple. Once you get past the thick and slippery scales and skin, you could eat the fish raw or you could char it over coals. I haven’t mentioned before why I have included fire in the human primate’s allowable tools, but not man-made tools. This is because fire can be found, and nurtured. Lightning strikes often set forests ablaze, and tree trunks can be found smouldering for days after. Or, it’s possible to start a fire by striking flint stones together.

This then, makes fish natural food for humans.

Is it ethical?

a) Has it suffered the least harm?

As we said with chicken, even if you did manage to catch a fish without causing it harm, you would have to kill it to eat it, which makes it unethical. Fish are made to suffer long agonising deaths as they get tangled in nets, crushed by the weight of other fish, gaffed and hauled over the side of boats to die, gasping.

Just because they can’t scream, and because they don’t show fear on their faces, doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering and feeling pain. Studies have shown that fish feel both reflexive and cognitive pain. That is, they respond physically and mentally to it. Just like humans do.

b) Has it had the best life possible?

Free ocean and fresh-water fish have a good life. But farmed fish such as salmon, tilapia, catfish and trout are often fed unnatural diets including genetically modified food. Not only are they kept penned and are unable to follow their normal life cycle, but in order for fish farmers to turn out as many fish as they can per area, these fish are jammed in together. This causes a proliferation of diseases, so the fish are treated with chemical and antibiotics. Here is a really good article on farmed fish.

c) Is this food good for us?

You would think that fish would be good food for humans. There is so much talk about the fish oils that are so healthy. In that case, wild fish should be good food. But – there’s another problem. The oceans have been laced with toxic heavy metals such as mercury, and this is definitely poisonous for humans. It can seriously affect the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, nervous and immune system.

Final verdict – my opinion:

Fish caught by hand or in any way that does not involve man-made tools is natural human food.

But, it is not ethical unless it has been found dead due to natural causes and has lived wild since birth.

So, fish is off the list.

Do you eat fish? Do you think it’s a good thing to eat fish?

Next post: shellfish

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