Do Fish Feel Pain? Hardcover – 25 Mar 2010
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An accessible and compelling account...her book will make an important contribution to the debate. (Anne Magurran, Times Literary Supplement)
'Do Fish Feel Pain?' is a fascinating excursion through the recent studies of the surprisingly complex behaviour of fish. (Clive Wynne, Nature)
A timely, important and interesting book. (Sanjida O'Connell, New Scientist)
While there has been increasing interest in recent years in the welfare of farm animals, fish are frequently thought to be different. In many people's perception, fish, with their lack of facial expressions or recognisable communication, are not seen to count when it comes to welfare. Angling is a major sport, and fishing a big industry. Millions of fish are caught on barbed hooks, or left to die by suffocation on the decks of fishing boats. Here, biologist Victoria Braithwaite explores the question of fish pain and fish suffering, explaining what we now understand about fish behaviour, and examining the related ethical questions about how we should treat these animals. She asks why the question of pain in fish has not been raised earlier, indicating our prejudices and assumptions; and argues that the latest and growing scientific evidence would suggest that we should widen to fish the protection currently given to birds and mammals.See all Product description
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Considering the general philosophical issues around animal welfare as well as the scientific questions of what fish can experience, the book scrupulously fails to find a bogeyman or call for any knee-jerk instant solutions. Nonetheless, it raises some hard issues, and in a world where we're ready to pay more for free-range poultry, it may be timely to be hearing some unpalatable facts about many of the standard commercial fishing practices used to produce the fish on our plates.
Alongside the exploration of the book's main themes comes plenty of fascinating biology, including the extraordinary and rather delightful story of the grouper and the eel, which I've had to repeat to everyone since reading it. The author is a fish biologist, and the book tells a perhaps unintended third story, that of the scientific process, the honest search for the right question, and then the ingenuity and elegance applied to finding an answer. When the predominant exposure to science is about dramatic breakthroughs or headline-grabbing controversy, this readable, thoughtful and informative book is a tribute to the people quietly getting on with it, trying to find out how things really work. I'm grateful one of them has found the time to share the process, as well as raising some very important issues about our understanding of and interactions with these fascinating and diverse animals.
I'd certainly recommend this book for those interested in animal physiology like myself, and also for the general reader.
The book flattens the argument that fish are robot-like in responding to painful events. It shows that they have numerous pain receptors in their mouths, and sites in their brains that receive pain messages. Fish change their behaviour when experiencing pain, and avoid similar situations in the future.
It will make uncomfortable reading for people who fish for a living and those who do so for pleasure.