{A-Z:Veganism} F is for Fishing

F is for …

Fishing

‘Recreational’ fishing is a form of hunting that occurs in Australia’s oceans and waterways. It would not be overstating the matter to declare that fishing is one of Australia’s national past times.

Fishing is commonly referred to as a ‘sport’ and a ‘recreational activity’, and is regarded as a suitable activity for children to engage in.

Lake

The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries’ website contains a section on fishing for children, called ‘fish ‘n’ kids’.

Children can explore the following contradictory topics: ‘Learn to Fish’, ‘Help Save Fish’, ‘Pet Fish’ and ‘Fish Recipes’

Presumably the ‘fish recipes’ section does not have any overlap with the ‘pet fish’ section. Moreover, I have a novel idea to help ‘save’ fish……Don’t ‘learn’ to fish!

In the learning to fish section, children are advised:

‘like any sport it’s wise to be careful when you’re fishing so you don’t hurt yourself and others.’

Unfortunately, the term ‘others’ does not refer to the targets of this ‘sport’. In fact, the term ‘sport’ is entirely misleading.

SPORT, definition  –

an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

This definition brings to mind a football (soccer) match or a swimming event. A ‘real sport’ – an activity where the participants consent to their involvement and the competitors are evenly matched.

Clearly, fish do not consent to being pursued by humans brandishing fishing rods. The ‘competition’ is not evenly matched. It is ludicrous to label fishing as ‘sport’. Fishing involves the pursuit and killing of a live animal – this is hunting, clearly.

fish

Elsewhere on the NSW Department of Primary Industries website I located a section called ‘Welfare of Fish’. This section contains one clause, called:  Humane Harvesting of Fish and Crustaceans.

In relation to fin-fish, the clause states:

It is important to be able to apply humane dispatching methods to any fish that are to be harvested. Percussive stunning is considered a good approach provided it is done swiftly and delivered to the correct area.’

Percussive stunning is described in the following manner:

‘Fish should be hit with a sharp blow to the head in the area just above the eyes (the area adjacent to the brain) using a special tool such as a heavy wooden handle …When applied correctly, the fish’s gill covers should stop rhythmically moving and the eye should remain still.  Fish should only be bled after the fish has been dispatched’.

Dispatched? Euphemisms are used to disguise the reality: dispatched in place of killed, percussive stunning in place of bludgeoning.

Furthermore, the term ‘humane dispatching’ is an oxymoron.

In ‘Help Save Fish’, children are given strategies to protect fish and their habitats. One tip encourages children to refrain from washing food scraps down the sink as this can ‘pollute waterways and harm fish’. This implies that children are only expected to display care and concern for fish and fish habitats when they are not holding a rod.

Once children are engaged in the ‘recreational pursuit’ or ‘sport’ of fishing it is acceptable to harm fish by hooking them through the lip, removing them from their aquatic home, bludgeoning them and then watching them bleed out (or perhaps they witness an adult perform this gruesome procedure).

Why are these fish not worthy of protection?

Companies that market children’s fishing adventures commonly refer to the ‘back to nature’ aspects of fishing. For example, one company states on its website:

‘Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Australia and it is a great way to get children away from the computer or TV and experience the outdoors, to bond with you as a parent and learn a thing or two about the environment at the same time’!

Another company asserts:

‘[We] are supportive of the worldwide movement to reconnect children with nature’.

A fishing company director laments the fact that (according to her) none of the children in her ‘vacation care group’ had ‘hung out in the great outdoors, let alone climbed a tree or built a cubby house’. She was bewildered that – in a group of 16 children (aged 10-12 years) – only one had ever been fishing before.  

Her company also offers an intensive 5-day workshop, with subjects titled: ‘What’s my Line’; ‘We are Champions’ and ‘Fish are Friends’.

What?! Fish are friends.

Apparently, this topic focuses on ‘environment and fish habitats’. It’s the same message espoused by NSW DPI – only some fish are worthy of our respect and compassion.

I wonder how the staff would answer a child who questioned why some fish are regarded as friends and others are regarded as ‘prey’.

The director’s concern for children’s disengagement with nature is admirable. However, I cannot support her proposed method for helping to alleviate the disconnection. To my mind, the killing of ocean dwelling beings is an act that further disconnects children from the natural world.

The wonder that is evoked by the lulling water, the gentle breeze, or the leafy, peaceful surroundings should extend to the life forms swimming beneath the water.  To appreciate and bask in the beauty of nature that exists above the waterline, and then kill that which dwells beneath is to disconnect oneself from the natural world.

Australian culture teaches children that the killing of a sentient being is a valid recreational pursuit, a worthy way to spend time outdoors, and a fitting way to engage with nature.

Alas, fish are not regarded as impressive in their living state, as members of a diverse, aquatic dwelling species.

During my research for this blog post, I viewed dozens of images of young children and teenagers holding corpses of fish. Most children were smiling broadly, clutching their ‘prize’. I saw tiny fish and enormous fish, all with blank eyes. It really is quite grotesque….and sad.

Most people would be (justifiably) horrified if they saw children clutching the corpses of rabbits or cats, while grinning broadly. Why is our reaction different for fish? Is it because they are so dissimilar to us?

A carnist value system deems it acceptable to pursue, maim and kill fish. Carnism also explains why an individual eats some types of fish, while regarding other fish as ‘pets’ and inedible (eg. goldfish).

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I do not support the maiming and killing of sentient beings in the name of recreation or ‘engagement with nature’. As parents, we can encourage our children to ‘get outside’ and connect with nature, without engaging in an activity that destroys (and devalues) the lives of aquatic dwelling beings. I choose to educate my children that all fish are important and worthy of our respect; that aquatic dwellers are part of a complex web of life.

I choose to enjoy the spectacle of a radiant sunrise without a fishing rod in my hand.

How do you assist your children to engage with nature?

Ally

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

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About Ally
Mamma. Vegan. I blog at Made of Stars.

13 Responses to {A-Z:Veganism} F is for Fishing

  1. Excellent post, I agree 100% Ally

  2. Xiomara says:

    This is a great post. It also brings to mind how common it is for some people who identify as”vegetarians” to eat fish. Sigh…

    • Ally says:

      Hi! I hope you are well!
      Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      Generally, humans lack empathy for fish and other sea creatures. We seem to have a hard time identifying with them. It’s sad.
      I’m glad you didn’t mind that it wasn’t F for Factory Farming 😉

      • Xiomara says:

        Haha. You remember that. Ill keep guessing and will let you know when I guess correctly. 🙂

      • Ally says:

        If there is a particular topic you are interested in, let me know. I might be able to do it! 🙂

        With G, for instance, there were about 4 topics that I was considering.
        I haven’t decided on I or J yet.

      • Xiomara says:

        Cool!! I’ll definitely think brainstorm. In general, there are soooo many things to learn about veganism that everything you post is super informative!

  3. tahinitoo says:

    What a wonderfully well written post, Ally. I especially love this line: “To appreciate and bask in the beauty of nature that exists above the waterline, and then kill that which dwells beneath is to disconnect oneself from the natural world”. I wish I could wear that phrase on a shirt. 🙂

  4. Ally says:

    Oh thank you Amy! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
    I look forward to seeing your t-shirt 😉

  5. susykat says:

    I was about to say that was my favourite line too (quoted above by tahinitoo). Great piece, Ally. I love how you outline the absolute hypocrisy and contradictions espoused by fishing advocates. How confusing for children to hear such conflicting information :/

    • Ally says:

      Hi Susykat!
      Yes, that is something that struck me so powerfully- why is one fish worth more than another? How do you judge that? And yes, how do you explain it to children?
      Thanks 🙂

  6. uberdish says:

    Well written, Ally, and a pleasure to read! I’m with tahinitoo and the others. This phrase has a very powerful message.

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