Fishing for nonviolence

I commend Casting for Recovery for offering support to breast-cancer survivors. I’m certain there is great benefit in spending time surrounded by others who understand this devastating illness. I also have no doubt that doing so in a natural setting compounds the healing process. But why not partake in nonviolent bonding activities like hiking and bike riding, rather than catch-and-release fly-fishing?

I once was an avid fisherman and am aware that [such] options as barbless hooks, minimizing stress, quick release and keeping fish submerged [can] increase survival. Yet even with these precautions that reduce mortality, fish swimming away seemingly unharmed often die later due to imbalances in blood chemistry (stress) from their struggle and/or hook damage. The idea that fish cannot feel pain is a myth and an argument of convenience.

As Dr. Donald Broom explains, “The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically, and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.” Fish and Fisheries journal cited over 500 research papers on fish intelligence, proving that fish are smart, can use tools, and have impressive long-term memories and sophisticated social structures. Yes, they use tools! (I wonder if they return them?) Check out the fascinating scientific research at

Since fish can’t breathe when pulled out of water, the experience of being yanked into the air is probably similar to holding a mammal underwater. I wonder how well a nonprofit group would be received if their activities centered around holding puppies and cats underwater, with some of them later dying from the experience?

I distributed leaflets outside of Casting for Recovery’s recent fundraiser, and several irate attendees demanded that I refrain from leafleting because of the healing the group provides. I think such logic is dangerous; doing good is no excuse to do harm. Harming animals simply because we have the power to do so is a violation of the Golden Rule and a grave injustice. Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

— Stewart David

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2 thoughts on “Fishing for nonviolence

  1. Trey

    Yeah, why release ’em. Keep ’em and eat ’em.

    And if you just chop their heads off, gut them, and clean them right after you catch them…. no suffering.

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