A new billboard campaign that compares eating fish to eating cats has been subject to intense debate in the UK.
Animal rights group PETA is behind the ad, which is currently on show in Cleethorpes in North East Lincolnshire. It shows a smiling fishmonger holding up a dead fish, which then turns into a cat. The words “Sea things in a different light. Respect all life. Go vegan” are shown underneath.
Cleethorpes is at the center of the UK’s fish processing industry, and the ad is displayed just outside a fish and chip shop. According to the BBC, one passerby described it as a “bit sick,” adding: “It’s a cat. You don’t eat a cat.”
The hypocrisy of animal consumption
While people may be shocked by the comparison, the ad stems from the belief of many in the vegan community that there is no difference between the animals we eat and our “pets.”
Humans in the UK are often repulsed by the idea of eating companion animals like cats and dogs, but find nothing wrong with eating cows, pigs, chickens, and fish.
Many people would argue that preference for some animals over the other can be attributed to our culture and society, rather than any scientific basis. There is no reason to believe that any of these animals have less of a capacity to feel emotions than cats and dogs, and it’s this message that PETA is attempting to drive home with its advert.
“Fish are animals with feelings who can experience pain just as much as our animal companions can, yet fishers haul them out of the ocean, causing them to suffocate, and gut them while they’re still conscious,” said PETA Vice President of Programmes, Elisa Allen. “Everyone deserves protection from abuse, and PETA is reminding Grimbarians that sea animals all have a will to live and don’t want to die for human dinners.”
Can fish feel pain?
Historically, humans have tended to view fish as unconscious and unintelligent animals. This is likely due to the fact that they look and behave differently to us.
A great deal of scientific research has indicated, however, that fish do have the capacity to feel pain.
In her book Do Fish Feel Pain?, biologist Victoria Braithwaite wrote that “there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals.”
Fish, like us, have nervous systems. These release endorphins that relieve suffering. Experts have claimed this is further evidence they are able to experience pain.