The images in the following program are highly sensitive and may be as disturbing to viewers as they were to us. However, we have to show the truth about cruelty to animals, praying that you will help to stop it.

This is the Stop Animal Cruelty series on Supreme Master Television. Today we examine the sentient nature of fish and the immense cruelty they endure at the hands of those involved in commercial and so-called “sport” fishing as well as fish farming.

We do know that fish have brains, a central nervous system and nerve endings. These animals have nociceptors which are receptors on the skin that are physiologically similar to the forebrain and midbrain of mammals. And recent studies suggest that on our video where you saw the fish flopping around in pain were deliberate attempts to escape the workers’ blades.

Research has shown that the chemical messengers used to conduct feelings of pain in fish are exactly the same as those found in mammals, including humans, and perform the same function. These chemical compounds, called substance P and bradykinin, are involved in sending signals from the site of injury up the spinal cord to the brain.

Donald Broom, a Professor of Animal Welfare at Cambridge University, UK has stated, “The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.” However, the ability to feel pain is not the sole determinant of sentience; fish are also highly intelligent, with the ability to learn, remember and solve problems. Moreover, fish are self-aware and possess unique personalities.

One thing that fish are really good at is smelling, and recent experiments have shown that they can actually recognize their own smell and can recognize themselves. Now, self-recognition is thought to be a higher order mental process, only seen in dolphins and dogs, but actually, that’s done by sight, by mirror recognition experiments. Fish don’t really live in such a visual world and so they use smell to recognize themselves, and that’s showing that fish are capable of a higher mental-order process.

Each year millions of people participate in the incredibly heartless activity of “sport” angling or fishing, which involves using a rod and line with a sharp hook on the end. Bait is attached to the hook, and when a fish comes to eat the bait, the hook pierces through the unsuspecting animal’s lip and other sensitive parts of the mouth, which are permeated with nerves and blood vessels. Sometimes the hook penetrates the eye, causing enormous anguish, bleeding and even blindness.

In an attempt to escape, the fish thrashes around and so the angler must pull extremely hard to bring the fish to land, thus causing deeper and more painful lacerations. When brought to shore or the boat, the innocent fish is then left to suffocate or may be repeatedly hit on the head with a wooden bat; some fish are still alive and conscious as they have their skin ripped off by their captor.

Anybody who’s ever fished, I only did it once in my life, I’d never do it again, but that fish is feeling pain. They’re gasping for air, somebody comes and hits them with a board; it takes them a long time to die. They’re in agony, just like any other animal. They are being traumatized; they do not want to die. They know they are dying. They fight with every ounce in their body not to die. I can see no reason whatever to eat fish.

In a futile attempt to be supposedly humane, some anglers throw fish back into the water after they’ve been caught, a practice called “catch and release.” However, due to the severe injuries to their mouths and sheer exhaustion from trying to escape, the animals are usually unable to eat and simply die from starvation and bleeding.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the US, even as little as 30 seconds of exposure to air means death for a trout. Also, being handled by humans causes damage to the layer of mucus on the fish’s skin which protects them from bacterial and viral infections, thus increasing the risk of catching a disease. If the returned fish does manage to survive, he or she runs the risk of having to re-live this terror if caught again.

If you accept that fish are capable of pain and fear and stress, you have to accept that if you are simply catching a fish for your own enjoyment, you are potentially causing pain and fear to that fish. And it’s been proven that the fish is very stressed, they can suffer mortality and their subsequent behavior can be affected after they’ve been released.

An even higher threat to wild fish populations is trawling. Trawling is extremely destructive and savage. One practice called bottom trawling uses a tapered net with a mouth that can be nearly 70 meters wide. The net of death is dragged along the ocean floor, causing everything in its path to be scooped up and bulldozed.

Large drag trawlers, bottom trawlers, middle water trawlers, long lines, drift nets, that kind of technology is something that fish, for instance, cannot keep up with. We’re taking the fish out of the ocean far, far faster than they’re able to reproduce. We have removed about 90% of the fishes from the oceans, and we’re taking 70 to 90 million sharks alone. If you remove that shark from the ecosystem, you’re going to do a lot of serious damage to that ecosystem.

The animals and objects caught in the net knock into each other as they are dragged for hours on end in a nightmarish scenario. Many fish suffocate and are squashed or cut by the netting. When the traumatized animals are eventually hauled to the surface, they undergo an excruciating form of decompression known as barotrauma, which causes their swim bladders to expand. As a result, their eyes bulge out and their stomachs and esophagi may be forced violently from their mouths. The fish that are not dead upon retrieval are viciously killed.

Fish are just as sentient and just as capable of suffering as any land animal is. They have the same capacity to suffer and deserve protection as well. And we’re at a crucial point right now with dwindling populations of fish and this is largely due to overfishing and huge trawler nets which essentially clearcut the ocean of all of their life, sweeping up everyone and everything in their path, because these nets are indiscriminate.

As mentioned, due to the indiscriminate nature of trawling nets, other marine animals are caught when this horrific method is used, including crabs, lobsters, dolphins, sharks, seals and sea turtles. Most of these animals die from asphyxiation, injuries or trauma. According to Greenpeace International, approximately 10,000 marine species have already become extinct due to bottom trawling. Much like cows, chickens and pigs, fish are also factory farmed and subjected to obscene treatment and torture.

First of all, female fish are needed to obtain eggs, so the females are periodically felt to see if their egg mass is free. If it is, the eggs are literally squeezed out of the genitalia, or a jet of water may be used to flush out the eggs; either way it’s a tremendously invasive, painful procedure. The males are also callously treated, being squeezed and milked for their semen, which causes extreme agony to these sensitive animal co-inhabitants. Inland fish farms keep newborn fish in concrete tanks up to 35 meters long, but if the farms are sea-based, the animals are kept in cages.

The stocking density is extremely high, with 50,000 to 270,000 fish being kept in a single tank depending on the species; however, in nature these animals are used to swimming freely hundreds of kilometers in the open seas. This intense confinement causes stress resulting in repetitive movements often seen in captive animals imprisoned in zoos or laboratories. In addition, the fish often sustain injuries from knocking against one another and the sides of their tank or cage. Feeding factory farmed fish involves killing on a massive scale.

To raise one salmon on a salmon farm requires on average the catching of 75 fish from the ocean to feed it. And it’s converted into pellets. So, you’re actually putting much more pressure on oceanic ecosystems by raising these fish on salmon farms. And in addition, they heavily use growth hormones, antibiotics. And because salmon raised on a farm have a dirty white flesh which nobody’s going to buy, what they do is they put a dye in the food pellets to artificially color the meat. So it’s not even real. And so it’s very, very destructive, both to the ecosystem and it’s not very healthy.

The outrageously high stocking density at fish farms also results in absolutely filthy, sordid conditions in the tanks, which in turn causes numerous diseases and parasites to quickly spread. Illness, stress and deformities kill many of the animals before they’re slaughtered. For example, the death rate is sometimes close to 100% in salmon farms where a condition called infectious salmon anemia is present.

After reaching the required size, the fish are graded then slaughtered, with no legal requirement to stun the gentle beings before they’re killed. Thus while still conscious they must endure utterly horrendous deaths, by being frozen alive, electrocuted, suffocated in dissolved carbon dioxide or most sickeningly, being fully aware while having their gills violently slit open and their internal organs removed.

Mercy for Animals conducted an undercover investigation between September and December of 2010, at a fish slaughter facility in Mesquite just east of Dallas (Texas, USA). At this facility, our undercover investigator documented workers slicing the skin off of live fish, tearing their fins apart, their tails, before ultimately beheading the animals while they were still fully conscious. These are egregious acts that, if this type of pain were to be inflicted on a dog or cat, they could be fined and potentially incarcerated.

We can end the fishing industry and close all fish farms by simply avoiding fish and fish-based products. If Earth’s entire population adopts the loving plant-based diet, the demand for fish will cease and these wonderful animal co-inhabitants will be forever free to live their lives in dignity and peace. So please spread the word: “World Vegan, World Peace.”

For more information on protecting fish and other aquatic life, please visit the following websites:
Mercy For Animals
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Thank you, kind viewers, for watching this week’s edition of Stop Animal Cruelty. By the grace of the Divine may humanity soon learn to live in harmony with all beings on our shared planet, and thus usher in a new, Golden Age of love and peace.