Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sport fishing is cruel and immoral


Is sport fishing cruelty to animals?

Sep 15th, 2010

by Rafe Mair
Canada's best known political commentator and radio personality extraordinaire


I read a column the other day that dragged up an inner distress that I’ve tried to subvert. The theme of the article was that we kill our fish cruelly – by suffocation.

“Animal Rights” has been an ever growing issue for many years now and I suppose some progress has been made. There are laws; there is the SPCA and there are organizations that deal with individual issues like bull fighting. Paul Watson, the bravest man I’ve ever known, fights to save whales. My friend Anthony Marr, founder and major player in Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE), fights for the entire animal kingdom every day of every year. Yet, somehow fish are nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps it’s all got something to do with Jesus, who not only didn’t rail against fishing but helped disciples to catch them.

When I was a child I would catch rock cod and watch them slowly die because it could take an hour or more. As I grew older, salmon and trout were put in a sack to breathe their last. I’m not proud of this but I was scarcely alone.

As I grew older, I was a pretty fair fly fisherman and as the years passed, became less and less enthusiastic about killing my catch. When “catch and release” became in fashion in the 70′s, I was relieved and my conscience shut up for awhile. Then I read an article by a fly fisherman Hugh Falkus – an Englishman whom I much admired – who said that: “catch and release” was immoral because what we were doing was tormenting fish – that what we should do is kill what we wanted and quit. Shit! I didn’t want to hear that so I kept on catching and releasing until one day, fishing the Tauranga-Taupo River in New Zealand, my absolute favourite, while landing a trout, I saw three or four swim up with her until I netted her. “For God’s sake”, I murmured, “don’t tell me they care!” My conscience spun into gear again!

A few days later, Wendy (also a fine fisherman), still in New Zealand, and I were at a Game Fish Club for dinner and saw on the wharf, two Marlin and one Shark, hanging with blood down their flanks.

Why?, I asked. Where’s the need? These weren’t to go on an aboriginal’s table. It was a slaughter for the sake of slaughter.

On my record I was in no position to make a judgment and didn’t and don’t. But I quit fishing and, worst of all, tying flies which was a wonderful hobby for me. I would tie next to my computer and when an editorial idea struck just had to turn a bit and bang it out.

Through all this inner inspection process I began to think about fishing and especially commercial fishing and how their catches died. And more and more I was troubled.

What was the difference in leaving a trapped animal to die slowly until the trapper came along and throwing fish in the hold and letting them suffocate to death?

I used to console myself with the “cold blooded creature” argument that fish couldn’t feel but I knew and know that this is rubbish. Any sports fisher who has “played” a fish knows that they are indeed vexed at being hooked.

What now?, Rafe. I can’t call for an end to fishing! Many, many people the world over depend upon fishing, both of the commercial and “sports”. I have thousands of dollars of equipment that someone had to make and sell. I have a very large library of fishing books, many of them classics.

No, this is something that has to work its way through the consciousness of mankind as bear baiting, pit bull fighting, cockfighting, and now, bull fighting has done.

All I can do is raise the issue.

Anthony Marr and Rafe Mair

Anthony Marr comments:
September 15, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I was honored as Rafe’s guest more than once when he was top host at CKNW. He had always known my views on hunting, but once, he asked me, on the air, what I thought of sport fishing. My answer was, “Any activity in which we derive pleasure out of another’s suffering is immoral.” This was obviously a general statement, but just as obviously, in this instant, it referred specifically to sport fishing. And I hope that it played a part in Rafe’s eventual departure from the “sport”. There has never been any doubt in my mind that fish can feel pain.

Since then, I have moved on to global warming and mass extinction. We are currently deep in the 6th mass extinction on Earth, losing over 100+ known species and perhaps 1000 unknown species every day. There was a case precedent, the 3rd, 251 million years ago, the End-Permian mass extinction, which drove 75% of all land species and 95% of all marine species to extinction, due, yes, to global warming. And the current 6th mass extinction threatens to equal or exceed the 3rd in severity. If we likewise lose 95% of all marine species, the fish species will take a major hit. Even when I speak about the planet in general, the fish are always included, and generally implied.

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC) (search for “Anthony Marr Heal Our Planet Earth”)


Matthew 5 -7 said...

Wonderful post but one correction on Rafe Mair's article, Jesus did not eat fish it was "fishweed".

Much love

Catherine said...


I have personally been witness to a fish "screaming" after being caught and hauled up onto a pier to suffocate and die. It was a mackerel and I will never forget that experience as long as I live. Some may say it was an exhalation of air since fish have no vocal chords...all I know is that fish screamed. I heard it. He had just had a metal hook slice through his mouth as he tried to take a bite of food and he was drug out of his environment by the bleeding wound in his face. He was tossed down and left to suffocate in terror on that cement pier. As he gasped his last breath his vibrant and iridescent blue and purple bars on his silver skin slowly faded to gray as the life left him. No one can ever tell me that fish did not feel pain...he died in terror and agony. Thank you, Anthony, for this very relevant blog. People sometimes forget that fish are animals. They suffer, feel pain and they want to live.

with love,