Whenever I get really depressed, I put on Nirvana’s Unplugged Album and listen to Kurt Cobain sing “Something in the Way.”
The line that always gets me the most in that black pit is “It’s okay to eat fish, Cause they don’t have any feelings.” For me, personally, this is connects as being about feeling emotionally numb and unable to connect with other people, sure. But it’s based on a belief that it’s literally true, that fish don’t really feel pain or other feelings, so it’s okay to butcher them or otherwise be cruel to them.
Uh, no, says one scientist. They feel pain fine. According to research by Culum Brown of Macquarie University in Australia, recently published in the journal Animal Cognition, Brown found that fishy cognition and their sensory perception are generally on par with that of other animals, and that we should really think about being less cruel to them.
Brown found that fish “have very good memories, live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals, and can learn from one another” and “show signs of Machiavellian intelligence, such as cooperation and reconciliation.”
Brown says there is mounting evidence that fish feel pain in a manner similar to humans, and that if it is to be argued that animals are sentient, it must be argued fish are, too.
“Although scientists cannot provide a definitive answer on the level of consciousness for any non-human vertebrate, the extensive evidence of fish behavioral and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate,” says Brown. “We should therefore include fish in our ‘moral circle’ and afford them the protection they deserve.”
Image from MTV Hive