By Bob Halstead

I confess I am friendly with an awful lot of fish. I admire the sheer power of Potato Cod and Queensland Grouper, and love to stroke the silky skins of moray eels. It is fun to frolic with frogfish, mambo with mantas and shimmy with sharks.

I also like to eat fish, but do try to avoid reef fish simply because I would hate to eat one of my mates. So I fish for pelagic beasts such as wahoo, Spanish mackerel and tuna, or buy farmed barramundi and salmon.

But according to PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, I should only be eating vegetables. These people love vegetables, especially as sex aids. ( They have lusty R-rated advertising promoting sex with vegetables, as opposed, I suppose, to sex with meat. But I digress. They say fish have a bad image. Because fish are “slithery and slimy” and small ones “nibble your feet” while big ones “bite your face off”, the public think it is OK to kill and eat them. So fish are to be given a new name – “Sea Kittens”. Who could possibly eat a Sea Kitten?

Well I could for one. I hate cats. If I were Prime Minister of Australia I would immediately deport them all. Actually I would feed them to the sharks. They might start out cute and cuddly kittens but they all grow to be vicious, selfish, mean and murderous cats, accounting for at least 60 million native Australian birds a year (before you protest, that is only 5 birds per cat per year), let alone all the native marsupials they slaughter. These are awful deceitful animals that have no place in Australia.

The RSPCA used to run anti-duck hunting TV campaigns in Australia claiming ducks suffered cruelly, flapping in agony from the shot, then mauled by dogs before being eaten. I wrote them a letter explaining I was not a shooter, but felt that the number of birds cruelly ripped apart by domestic and feral cats was huge compared to the trivial number shot by hunters, and that domestic cats rarely even ate their kill. It took a long while for a reply but it did come eventually, and assured me that RSPCA policy for domestic cats was that they were to be confined at night. I wrote again saying I was looking forward to their TV campaign on confinement. Nothing happened of course, the hypocrites.

One of the arguments used by PETA against eating fish is that fish feel pain, and therefore fishing is cruel. It certainly seems reasonable that fish feel pain as do other animals with a nervous system, however, as Ichthyologist Dr. Jack Randall once asked, how hard do you think you would fight if you had a hook through your jaw? Fish fight hard, almost as if they were not feeling any pain, not as much pain as we would feel, for sure.

Quiz time: What catches and kills more fish than all the fishing fleets of the world combined? Well done! You are obviously smarter than anyone at PETA. Yes, Other Fish. Fish eat fish. Some fish are herbivores (or vegetarians as PETA might say, mind you, I have never heard of fish having sex with algae), but fish that are not herbivores eat these. What is more, they get eaten alive. Predatory fish particularly seek out the young, sick and the wounded that, if they could indeed feel pain, would suffer terribly. That being so it would appear that PETA has an argument for a cruel God, if of course He or She exists, and is not just a delusion.

So PETA’s campaign champions giving animals warm fluffy names so people will not be tempted to slaughter them. It reminded me of my University days when I protested to a flat mate who was shooting sparrows with an air rifle. I preciously demanded his standards! He responded that he did not shoot sparrows if they were “fluffy”.

This is actually the correct argument for not killing whales. It does not matter if they are abundant or endangered. What matters is that they are magnificent “fluffy” animals whose existence enhances our lives. There is an aesthetic appeal. I’ve seen lots, they are wonderful but they do not have any “rights”. Haven’t these dolts read Darwin? According to PETA’s logic whales could be called “Really Big Sea Kittens”, and be saved. But is it all in the name? How could they be so naive? Then I thought, “They cannot be serious, this is a hoax just like Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth”, and went back to their web site. They mean it. These people are seriously deranged (apart from the sex bit).

In promoting a petition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to stop promoting the hunting of “Sea Kittens (otherwise known as ‘fishing’).” they declare, “Sea Kittens are just as intelligent (not to mention adorable) as dogs and cats, and they feel pain just as all animals do”. It is a pity that PETA are not intelligent enough to feel embarrassment when they promote this garbage.

Most pet owners know that pets are only human after all, and are totally blind to their pet’s animal nature. Owners of vicious dogs have said to me “Don’t worry, he/she won’t bite”. After it has bitten me they say, “He/she’s never done that before”. Morons – it is a dog, of course it will bite. If the poor creature learns any trick, owners attribute intelligence. I remember the country line-dancers praising a horse that had learned to dance the steps with them. But there are two sides to any story. Was the horse intelligent? Or were the line dancers simple folk?

Surely one essential difference between animals and humans is our ability to imagine the future consequences of an action. Animals feel pain and react to it without thought. They rely on instinct. We worry about the future and think “What if?”  Unfortunately over-active imaginations lead to insane predictions (eg Al Gore). We would probably be happier if we did not have the ability to imagine too far into the future. Climate change would no longer be a concern. If the sea level got higher we might just move to dry ground, or put our house on stilts, or build a bigger dyke, instead of tilting at the science-fiction windmill of CO2 emissions.

Alas I too am human, and can see some consequences of present human action. We are going to have to do something about pets. They use up too much of our planet’s resources, and leave huge carbon paw-prints. Check out your local supermarket. Pets are big business for nothing. We do not need them. Nitwits argue that a pet will improve your health, neglecting the usually hideous consequences for the health of your neighbours, particularly if they have been awake all night listening to your dog bark, or had their granny mauled.

Instead of getting a pet, get to know some wild native animals. Cuddle a cod, tickle a trevally, and dance with a dolphin. If they are not fluffy, eat them. I’m slavering just imagining my next feast of Sea Kitten and Chips.

March 2009

Afterthought on Fish/Fishes

I was asked once to write a book chapter on the “World of Fish”. I said I would be pleased to, but the title would have to be the “World of Fishes”. I said my ichthyologist friends would laugh and mock me if I used “Fish” instead of the correct “Fishes”. Fishes denotes plural but also different species. Fish can be singular, or plural if of only one species.

We argued. I lost.

I wrote to Oxford Dictionaries. They said people had used the word Fishes the way I suggested, and quoted an ancient edition of their dictionary, but now they use Fish. They said they tried to be descriptive, and not proscriptive about how a word was used. Huh!








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