Coming in June, it's "Free Fishing Day"--your "one chance during the year to get hooked for free!" (exclamation point courtesy of the Nevada Department of Wildlife). Anglers across the country are being encouraged to take advantage of states' upcoming license-free days by introducing friends and family members to their favorite blood sport.
Sorry, does that sound harsh? We don't like to think about it, but there's no longer any doubt that fish can feel pain. We should stop pretending that hurting animals for "fun" is an acceptable way to spend an afternoon.
I haven't always felt this way. Like most people, I grew up thinking that fishing was a normal pastime. My father fished, and when I was a kid, I often accompanied him on fishing trips. I loved talking to my dad on the long drives to the lake and back--although, admittedly, my favorite part of these outings was stopping by the bait shop, because the man who owned the shop had a "pet" skunk. I played with the skunk while my father purchased items for our trip.
And my least favorite part? Fishing. Hooking worms was gross, and I always felt uncomfortable when we'd pull a fish out of the water. Adults said that fish don't feel pain, but that was hard to believe while watching a fish struggle and gasp for air as my father removed the hook. I was always secretly glad when we didn't catch any fish.
Science has caught up with what I knew instinctively as a kid: Fish do feel pain, and they suffer greatly when they are impaled in the mouth by a sharp hook.
In her new book Do Fish Feel Pain?, biologist Victoria Braithwaite says that "there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals--and more than there is for human neonates and preterm babies."
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).