NPR reports on the latest “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” (PETA) publicity campaign, this one aimed at reducing fishing and use of fish as food. One can imagine the PETA brainstorming session for this: what might make people treat fish differently? And some unknown genius there got the idea that they could rename “fish” as “sea kittens”.
“PETA thought that by renaming fish sea kittens, compassionate people who would never dream of hurting a dog or a cat might extend that sympathy to fish, or sea kittens,” PETA campaign coordinator Ashley Byrne says.
Byrne says that rebranding fish as sea kittens was obvious.
“Fish not only have the same ability to feel pain as a dog or a cat, but they also communicate with one another,” she says. “They have complex social interactions; they form bonds; they express affection by gently rubbing against one another.”
That’s an anthropomorphic mess there. Fish certainly can feel pain, but the “same ability” statement just doesn’t do anything. As for the communication thing, fish often do defend territories and attract mates. Maybe that’s what is meant by “complex social interactions”. I don’t know what fish-rubbing Byrne has witnessed, but there’s a lot of fin-nipping and worse out there as well.
A child’s response disputed PETA’s view of fish mentality:
“It just doesn’t look right,” Harmony says. Harmony, the fourth generation of a commercial fishing family, looks at the cartoon fish and reads through the information on the site. “They say that they’re intelligent, but they’re not really,” Harmony says. “They have tiny, tiny little brains. Very miniature.”
I wouldn’t agree with the dismissal made there, either. I’ve been able to use operant conditioning to train fish myself, and C. Scott Johnson wrote a book about training goldfish with the same techniques that are used for training dolphins (which seems to have become a collectors item). I certainly long ago discarded the Cartesian view of animals as automatons, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating a couple of catfish filets with lemon juice and butter.
The issue of job loss in the commercial fisheries has a PETA answer:
But Byrne says that even if people lose jobs in the fishing industry through the success of the campaign, they could find work in more sea-kitten-friendly environments.
“So as there is less of a demand for foods like fish, there is more of a demand for other foods, and jobs open up in those industries,” Byrne says.
So how many soybean and peanut farmers does the country need, especially now in the recession we’ve got going? PETA doesn’t mention what “other” food industries might take in the former fishermen, but one can bet that they don’t mean anything that comes near a domestic animal.
Though PETA’s regard for fishermen is likely on a par with the 72 to 90% of animals they euthanize at PETA-run shelters, it may well be the case that many commercial fishermen will be out of work anyway. Perpetual stock mis-management by politics and hope rather than biology has put many commercial fisheries into the danger zone. Idiotic campaigns about “sea kittens” is not a substitute for actual biology-based stock management.
Remember, PETA’s long-term goal is a world in which all humans are obligate vegans, all domestic animals of any sort are extinct, and no human use of wildlife happens. It’s sometimes easy to overlook in those cases where PETA hops on a convenient bandwagon (“Puppy mills are bad!”), but stunts like this “sea kittens” thing help make the point that these folks are far, far removed from where most people in the USA are at.
Hat tip to “Spottedwind” at AtBC.