"Fish Do Feel Pain"
British scientists say fish do feel pain. Animal rights activists sound the alarm, but anglers dismiss study. If fish have feelings, what does that mean for anglers?
LONDON, April 30 — Anglers take note — British scientists say that after years of debate, they now have proof that fish feel pain. Animal activists are on the warpath after a study released on Wednesday showed how rainbow trout react to pain and discomfort. They condemned fishing as cruel and demanded an end to the sport — but anglers themselves dismissed the study.
THE RESEARCH FOUND that fish have pain receptors in their heads and that subjecting them to noxious substances causes "adverse behavioral and physiological changes."
"This fulfills the criteria for animal pain," said Dr. Lynne Sneddon, who headed the research, published Wednesday by the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of science.
Bee venom or acetic acid was injected into the lips of trout, while control groups of fish were injected with saline solution or merely handled. The trout injected with venom or acid began to show diverse effects including a "rocking" motion — similar to that seen in stressed higher vertebrates — and those injected with acetic acid began rubbing their lips in the gravel of their tank. "These do not appear to be reflex responses," Sneddon said.
The affected fish also took three times longer to resume feeding activity, compared with those in the control groups. The team from the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh found the fish had polymodal nociceptors — receptors that respond to tissue-damaging stimuli — on their heads. It is the first time these receptors have been found in fish. They have similar properties to those found in amphibians, birds and mammals including humans.
Animal activists said the findings showed that fishing is cruel. "We would encourage anglers to lay down their rods. It's ridiculous that in 2003 we are still talking about whether fish feel pain — of course they do," Dawn Carr of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told Sky News.
But anglers vowed to keep on enjoying their sport. "It's supposition," said Charles Jardine, director of pro-angling group Gone Fishing. "I don't think the millions of anglers throughout the whole of the world see themselves as cruel individuals."
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Fish have feelings