Lent 2011 is upon us, and those of us
who observe the tradition have spent the week preparing and have chosen what we
will deny ourselves for the next 40 days. Because today is Friday, some
believers also abstain from the consumption of meat from mammals and fowl.
However, many of these individuals continue to eat fish, despite the fact that these animals feel pain, that farming them adversely
affects the environment, and that ingesting them is actually harmful to humans.
For a long time, I myself didn’t understand the terrible repercussions of
consuming fish and was a self-proclaimed “pescetarian” for two
years before I learned the truth and went vegan.

Indeed, research has shown that fish do feel pain. According to Dr. Donald Bloom, animal welfare advisor to the British
government, “Anatomically,
physiologically, and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the
same as in birds and mammals.” Fish have fully developed brains and
nervous systems and very sensitive mouths. Fish use their tongues and mouths as humans might use their
hands—to catch or gather food, build nests, and even hide their offspring from
danger. Fish can also suffer from fear and anticipation of physical pain. An
Australian study found that when fish are chased, confined, or otherwise
threatened, they react as humans do to stress: with increased heart and
breathing rates and a burst of adrenalin. Like any other animal, fish feel pain
and have a will to survive.

Commercial fishing adversely affects the
environment. In fact, it’s wreaking havoc on our oceans. As a result of
commercial fishing, 90 percent of large fish populations have been exterminated
in the past 50 years, and a report published in the academic journal Science estimates that by the year 2048, our oceans will have been entirely
depleted. Many commercial fishing vessels practice bottom-trawling in order to
catch sea animals who live near, on, or under the sea floor, such as flounder,
cod, grouper, shrimp, and scallops. Scientists say that the destruction caused
by bottom-trawling is similar to that caused by clear-cutting old forests, only
on a far greater scale. Elliot Norse, president of the Marine Conservation
Biology Institute, says, “Scientists find that bottom-trawling is the
largest disturbance to the world’s sea floor and possibly the largest
human-caused disturbance to the biosphere.”

The consumption of fish flesh is also harmful to humans. Both wild and farmed
fish live in increasingly polluted waters, and their flesh rapidly accumulates high
levels of dangerous toxins. The most prominent of these are polychlorinated
biphenals (PCB) and mercury, which can harm the brain of anyone who eats them. The
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that fish can accumulate
thousands of times the level of cancer-causing PCBs found in the water in which
they live. And according
to The New England Journal of
Medicine
, fish “are the main if not
the only source of methyl mercury,” a substance that has been linked to
cardiovascular disease, fetal brain damage, blindness, deafness, and problems
with motor skills, language, and attention span. As if all that weren’t
enough to make your stomach turn, remember that seafood is also the number one
cause of food poisoning in the United States!

During Lent this year, consider all the
dangers associated with the consumption of fish. When you’re deciding
what to eat on Fridays, think about the environment, your health, and, of
course, fish! As you plan your next meal, ask yourself, “What would
Jesus do?”
He wouldn’t approve of modern fishing practices. So please extend the same
compassion to fish that you would to other animals and forgo the seafood.

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Article source: PETA Action Alerts

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