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“Sea Kitten” Sticks, Anyone?

“Sea Kitten” Sticks, Anyone?

Would a fish by any other name be abused just the same? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But PETA’s “proposal” to re-name “fish” as “sea kittens,” to give them a more “cute and cuddly” image, has at least gotten more people to think about the way we treat our “finned friends.”

Whatever you call them, “fish,” or “sea kittens,” they aren’t just swimming vegetables. They have feelings and individual personalities just like cats, dogs, cows, chickens, and other animals. Dr. Sylvia Earle, one of the world’s leading marine biologists, has said, “I never eat anyone I know personally. I wouldn’t deliberately eat a grouper any more than I’d eat a cocker spaniel. They’re so good-natured, so curious. You know, fish are sensitive, they have personalities, they hurt when they’re wounded.”

They will gently rub against one another as a sign of affection, and males will sometimes woo potential partners by singing to them. Fish build nests to raise their babies, and gather small rocks to make hiding places. They “garden” and weed out the types of algae they don’t like.

Fish are smart, interesting individuals who can use tools, recognize their “shoal mates,” gather information by eavesdropping on others, and learn to avoid nets by watching other fish in their group. Numerous studies have shown that fish have sophisticated social structures and impressive long-term memories.

But even if they were as dumb as a doornail, they would deserve compassion. Our “finned friends” can suffer and feel pain just like our furry ones. According to Dr. Donald Broom, a scientific advisor to the British government, “Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.”

When fish, along with unintended victims such as dolphins, turtles, and birds, are caught in commercial fishing nets, they are dragged against rocks and debris, and some suffocate from the weight of the other fish pressing against them. They gasp for air when lifted from their ocean homes and are tossed onboard ships, where they thrash in agony. Some are still alive when their throats and stomachs are slit open.

Whether you’re a pesco-vegetarian or a full-fledged meat-eater, please remember Finding Nemo’s admonishment: “Fish are friends, not food.” If you’re hooked on the taste of sea life but would like more “sea-kitten safe” options, faux-fish products are available from www.vegieworld.com. Or see Nancy Berkoff’s cookbook Vegan Seafood: Beyond the Fish Shtick for Vegetarians, which includes recipes for “Tuna” Noodle Casserole, “Fish” Tacos, “Crab” Enchiladas, and more. (It’s available at www.petacatalog.org.)

No matter what you eat, you can help fish/sea kittens by asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to stop promoting fishing, or “sea kitten hunting,” if you prefer PETA’s tongue-in-cheek term. Being impaled on a metal hook hurts. Fishing is cruel and unnecessary, whether the fish are killed right away or thrown back into the water, injured and exhausted. Go to http://getactive.peta.org/campaign/sea_kittens1 to send an automated message to the FWS. And repeat after me: “Fish Are Friends, Not Food.”

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30 comments

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9:29AM PST on Mar 6, 2009

The problem is simply too many people eating anything and everything to fill their needs - we need to reduce the human population before its too late and "long pork" ends up on the menu again.

2:11PM PST on Mar 3, 2009

Okay, so some people have no choice but to eat meat (fish IS meat) because there may be no other edible food. I think that if we don't need to, we shouldn't eat animals. Like you said, fish have feelings, as do every other animal, just like we have feelings. It's depressing that people are okay with stealing the life of another living creature because it tastes great. What is just plain disgusting is that there are people who don't care how it got to their plate in the first place. The last time I ate meat, I looked at it and thought exactly that - who are we to kill everything for our pleasure?

9:47AM PST on Mar 3, 2009

Annette. I agree with you 100%.
It is disgusting to say we are meat eaters. we were are not meat eaters. we were intended to eat a plant diet. It is only those who out of greed and selfish pleasure want to eat meat that try to say eating any animal is nessary or accceptable. it has been proven by too many different sources that eating animals causes health problems. It is not just in the past 40 years since factory farms became poplular. Eating animals has been an issue for as long as humans have existed. It has been proven over and over again that eating animals is simply a pleasure issue not a nessity for a healthy diet. I cannot understand anyone who can kill an innocent animal simply for the selfish greed of eating that animal body. It is disgusting, unethical, barbaric and cruel. It shows the uncaring, cruelty of the persons attitude towards animals who can eat animals and say it is acceptable,ethical or ever say it is nessary for a healthy diet. Eating animals is no more nessary or healthy than eating a bowl of refined white sugar for dinner and saying you had a healthy meal.

10:23AM PST on Feb 28, 2009

Thank You Kate S. I looked at your recommended site, it seems informative and balanced. Thanks again for the suggestion.
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

8:12PM PST on Feb 27, 2009

Seriously, we're designed to eat an omnivious diet. WHile I dont realy WANT to chow down on a baby cat I cant see that it is moraly differnt then eating a cow or pig or horse. Animals are animals.
Yummy sea kittens.
What disturbs me is that this sort of nosense gets media time when the oceans are being over fished and dead zones are growing ever larger- we get a good chunk of our O2 from the sea!

11:30AM PST on Feb 27, 2009

I just had a delicious sea kitten dinner last night. And while the seas are being exploited at an unsustainable rate, I have absolutely no problem consuming the omnivorous diet nature designed us to eat. I am concerned about sustainability of our food supply, so I can be eating my maguro sushi for years to come.

8:17AM PST on Feb 27, 2009

I am an environmental educator at an aquarium, and the sea is definitely over fished. We do need to seriously think about what we eat, where it comes from, and how it is harvested.

However, stunts like this just piss me off. Peta is such an alienating organization. If they could approach issues without name-calling and ineffectual stunts they would have already achieved much of their agenda. Nobody likes cruelty, and factory farms would already be marginalized if the people Peta were trying to win over were not shouted at in the streets.

If you are going to eat fish, (and yes, they are fish, Peta) check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's seafood watch program, which tells you which fish are harvested in sustainable ways and which are the product of environmentally unsound practices.

Meanwhile, if you need a laugh, go to the Peta seakitten page and read the "bedtime stories", which are totally over the top. Or create your own sea kitten! Mine is a tuna with elephant ears and trunk, a unicorn horn, a mohawk, and a leather jacket.

...and Peta wonders why no one is convinced. Hmmm.

7:37AM PST on Feb 27, 2009

I come on this site an click on the take action and click for saving the the ozone, rain forest, primates, oceans, other animals and breast cancer. But you have gone to far. I don't care if you call them "Sea Kittens" I will still eat fish, Lobsters, Crabs, Pork, Chicken, Cow, etc. As a sailor overseas in Southeast Asia I would not even be suprised if I ate dog, cat or monkey. If I did I don't care. It was "Good" Some of your liberal minded ideals just are not going to go to fly. Expecially in the poor countries. Have you ever been to a market in a poor country? There is all kinds of fish, meat and even insects. They eat what ever it takes to live. They always will. They don't have the Luxury that we have here in America. So pass the fish and the tartar sauce!

5:57AM PST on Feb 27, 2009

How far to go with this? I have, all of my life, had an inner feeling deeply buried that it was cruel to slaughter and eat animals, but I never considered fish. Although I think PETA is a radical organization that often goes way too far imposing their beliefs on others, they do have a point to make about the fish. However, I do have to wonder how many of the PETA people are ProLife, and I'm betting very few! When we start protecting life in EVERY form including humans who are alive in the womb until we murder them, perhaps then we could turn more attention to fish. Personally, my efforts to protect life will be focussed on stopping the slaughter of human beings and the fish may have to wait.

5:52AM PST on Feb 27, 2009

I think the sea is overfarmed. And, personally I don't like the idea of causing any living creature to suffer. However, at the same time, I am a human being, not a cow. As a human being, I have complex needs regarding nutrition, and as a human, I am an omnivore. I don't think it's wrong to eat meat, it's what humans do, and have done for millenia, regardless of how we feel about it. Peta's attitude that you can only help in an "all or nothing" manner is really distressing, because it makes me think that there's no way they'll compromise.

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