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LA Times asks: Do Fish feel pain?

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Most vegans are all too aware of the commonly held belief that fish don’t feel pain. (Oh yeah, and that they’re vegetables.) Victoria Braithwaite’s Op Ed piece in Sunday’s LA Times examines the question as to whether fish feel pain from the position of a behavioral biologist. Braithwaite writes:

“Determining whether any type of animal really suffers is difficult. A good starting place might be to consider how people feel pain. When a sharp object pierces the human body, specialized nerve endings called nociceptors alert us to the damage. Incredibly, no one ever seems to have asked before whether fish have nociceptors around their mouths. My colleagues and I in Edinburgh, Scotland, recently looked in trout and found that they do. If you look at thin sections of the trigeminal nerve, the main nerve for the face for all vertebrates, fish have the same two types of nociceptors that we do — A-delta and C fibers. So they do have the necessary sensory wiring to detect pain.”

No surprise, the wiring works. While the piece falls short of saying fish feel pain and therefore we should reconsider such things as say, eating them, the article does raise some questions not commonly considered in our society. Braithwaite continues:


“But I do find it curious that it has taken us so long even to bother to ask whether fish feel pain. Perhaps no one really wanted to know. Perhaps it opens a can of worms — so to speak — and begs the question of where do we draw the line. Crustacean welfare? Slug welfare? And if not fish, why birds? Is there a biological basis for drawing a line? “

Indeed.

For those wishing to send in a pro-veggie response to the LA Times, letters may be sent to letters@latimes.com. (Thank you DawnWatch.)

1 Comment

  1. Comment by

    Coty Chaos?

    on #

    I’m glad that someone has finally answered this question. I’ve always believed that fish could feel pain but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t eat them. They are still have a life that will have to end if you want to eat them.

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