Fish Feel Pain

This is in response to a ridiculous video on Youtube called "Fish Don't Feel Pain"


"Fish Feel Pain

While it may seem obvious that fish are able to feel pain, like every other animal, some people
still think of fish as swimming vegetables. In fact, regarding the ability to feel pain, fish are equal
to dogs, cats, and all other animals. Dr. Donald Broom, scientific advisor to the British
government, explains that “The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically
and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and animals.”1

Neurobiologists have long recognized that fish have nervous systems that comprehend and
respond to pain, and anyone who made it through Biology 101 knows that fish have nerves and
brains that sense pain, just like all animals.2 Indeed, scientists tell us that fish brains and nervous
systems closely resemble our own.3 For example, fish (like “higher vertebrates”) have
neurotransmitters like endorphins that relieve suffering—of course, the only reason for their
nervous systems to produce pain killers is to relieve pain.4 Claiming that fish do not suffer is as
intellectually and scientifically sound as arguing that the Earth is flat.

Interestingly, scientists have created a detailed map of pain receptors in fish’s mouths and all
over their bodies. A team of researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada recently surveyed
the scientific literature on fish pain and intelligence. They concluded that fish feel pain and that
“the welfare of fish requires consideration.”5 Dr. Lynne Sneddon, a scientist of fish biology in
the United Kingdom, explains, “Really, it’s kind of a moral question. Is your angling more
important than the pain to the fish?”6

Scientists at Edinburgh University and the Roslin Institute in the United Kingdom report that in
response to pain, fish also feel emotional stress and engage in “a ‘rocking’ motion strikingly
similar to the kind of motion seen in stressed higher vertebrates like mammals.”7 The research
team concluded that fish clearly experience pain in the same way as mammals, both physically
and psychologically.8

As you would expect from animals who we now know to be intelligent and interesting
individuals with memories and the capacity to learn, fish can also suffer from fear and
anticipation of physical pain. Researchers from universities across America have published

Dr. Lynne U. Sneddon, Dr. Victoria A. Braithwaite, and Dr. Michael J. Gentle, “Do Fish Have Nociceptors:
Evidence for the Evolution of a Vertebrate Sensory System,” The Royal Society Scientific Academy, 7 June 2003
. research showing that some fish use sound to communicate distress when nets are dipped into
their tanks or they are otherwise threatened.9 In a separate study, researcher William Tavolga
found that fish grunted when they received an electric shock. In addition, the fish began to grunt
as soon as they saw the electrode, clearly in anticipation of the torment that Tavolga was
inflicting on them.10

According to Dr. Michael Fox, D.V.M, Ph.D., “Even though fish don’t scream [audibly to
humans] when they are in pain and anguish, their behavior should be evidence enough of their
suffering when they are hooked or netted. They struggle, endeavoring to escape and, by so doing,
demonstrate they have a will to survive.”11

What happens to fish before they end up on your plate is nothing short of cruelty to animals—
whether they’re farmed or pulled from the ocean, fish are treated in ways that would warrant
felony charges if other animals were so horribly abused.


Richard H. Schwartz, “Do You Eat Fish?” Tikkun, Nov. 1999
L.S. Chervova, “Behavioral Reactions of Fishes to Pain Stimuli,” J. Ichthyol, 1997
L.S. Chervova.
K.P. Chandroo, I.J.H. Duncan, and R.D. Moccia, “Can Fish Suffer?: Perspectives on Sentience, Pain, Fear, and
Stress,” Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2004, p.11
K.P. Chandroo, p. 15.
Jennifer Smith, “Debate: Do Fish Feel Pain?” Newsday, 21 Aug. 2003
Alan Cowell, “Cruelty to Fish? Anglers in Britain Are Left Smarting,” International Herald Tribune, 7 May 2003.

Dr. Lynne U. Sneddon, Dr. Victoria A. Braithwaite, and Dr. Michael J. Gentle, “Do Fish Have Nociceptors:
Evidence for the Evolution of a Vertebrate Sensory System,” The Royal Society Scientific Academy, 7 June 2003

Martin A. Connaughton, Michael L. Lunn, Michael L. Fine, and Malcolm H. Tayor, “Characterization of Sounds
and Their Use in Two Sciaenid Species: Weakfish and Atlantic Croaker,”
Vantressa Brown, “Fish Feel Pain, British Researchers Say,” Agence France-Presse, 1 May 2003
Michael Fox., D.V.M., Ph.D., “Do Fish Have Feelings?” The Animals' Agenda, July/Aug. 1987, pp. 24-29."

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