Anglers carp at 'fish pain' theory
Wednesday, April 30, 2003 Posted: 7:50 AM EDT (1150 GMT)
EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Anglers and animal rights activists were further
apart than ever on Wednesday after scientists said they had proved for the
first time that fish feel pain. The study on rainbow trout by scientists in
Scotland found evidence, researchers said, that fish have feelings,
including stress and pain. But the main angling group in Britain cast doubt
on the research, saying that the findings contradicted previous studies.
The Royal Society published on Wednesday the latest findings of experiments
on bees stinging trout lips, which caused some of the fish to display a
"rocking" motion, according to the Press Association. The study at Edinburgh
University and the Roslin Institute in the Scottish capital concludes that
fish have nervous system receptors, or "polymodal nociceptors," in their
heads that respond to damaging stimuli. The ones in trout were the first to
be found in fish and have similar properties to those found in amphibians,
birds and mammals including humans, PA said.
Dr. Lynne Sneddon, who led the study, told PA: "Our research demonstrates
nociception and suggests that noxious stimulation in the rainbow trout has
adverse behavioral and physiological effects. This fulfils the criteria for
Animal rights organization PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals, which is opposed to all angling, welcomed the study but said fish
should not suffer to prove something obvious. Dawn Carr, director of PETA
(Europe), told PA: "It is unfortunate that these animals were made to suffer
for this study, because we've been saying for years that of course fish can
suffer and feel pain, just as all animals do.
"However we hope that when people see these results, they will think twice
about going angling. Marine biologists and common sense tell us that if you
trick a small animal into impaling his or herself in the mouth, that animal
"It's shocking that people will still go fishing for fun. We argue that for
every cruel thing people do, there is a compassionate alternative."
The National Angling Alliance (NAA), which represents one million anglers in
the UK, described the conclusions as "surprising."
A spokesman said: "These findings are in direct contrast to the recent work
of Professor James D. Rose of the University of Wyoming, who stated in the
Reviews of Fisheries Science that fish do not possess the necessary and
specific regions of the brain -- the neocortex -- to enable them to feel
pain or, indeed, fear." Dr. Bruno Broughton, a fish biologist and scientific
adviser to the NAA, added: "I doubt that it will come as much of a shock to
anglers to learn that fish have sensory cells around their mouths. Nor is it
a surprise that, when their lips are injected with poisons, fish respond and
"However, it is an entirely different matter to draw conclusions about the
ability of fish to feel pain, a psychological experience for which they --
literally -- do not have the brains."
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