About five weeks ago, the Canberra Times fishing columnist Dr Bryan Pratt dismissed the idea that fish could feel pain, branding those who suggested they could as “crazies, bigots, Luddites”. He went on to state that, “The full weight of scientific opinion … indicates that fish do not feel pain”.
He’s clearly and demonstrably wrong; there has been significant scientific research and opinion indicating that they can indeed feel pain including:
- “After reviewing the current scientific evidence and exploring the many arguments, it is irrefutably substantiated that fish are capable of experiencing pain”. (“An HSUS Report: Fish and Pain Perception”, Feb 2008)
- Norwegian School of Veterinary Science doctoral student Janicke Nordgreen studied nociception and pain in fish and concluded that it is very likely they can feel pain. (Reported in Science Daily, 15 Jan 2010)
- “Recent suggestions that fish cannot experience pain or suffering do not appear to be supported by the current research. The evidence I have presented suggests that fish do have the capacity to experience pain and fear, and therefore we need to consider how to minimise their potential suffering”. (“Fish Pain Perception”, V.A. Braithwaite)
The following week, Pratt restated his claim saying, “I repeat that the vast body of scientific opinion is that fish do not feel pain. That’s not just my opinion, it’s that of independent scientists worldwide and I am happy to pass on that information without denigrating anybody else’s opinion”.
He was asked on the day that column was published for the offered ‘information’ but despite a couple of reminders it has still not been supplied.
It is one thing for Pratt to hold an opinion – he’s entitled to that – but to misrepresent “the vast body of scientific opinion” while denigrating those who disagree with him is unprofessional and unacceptable.
I suppose his stance is understandable – he makes his living telling people how to catch and kill fish then selling them the gear to do it.
Finally, RSPCA policy states, “RSPCA Australia considers that the available scientific evidence demonstrates that fish are capable of experiencing pain and suffering”. I wonder whether Pratt regards them as crazies, bigots or Luddites.
Pratt should either provide the information he promised a month ago or retract his statements.