Do fish feel pain?

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Jess Turner

There are plenty of fish in the sea, right? What’s wrong with the fishing industry and eating fish? Do the mega-trawlers of the fishing industry destroy other marine life and ocean habitats during fishing?

Why should we care about fish? Aren’t they basic creatures, totally unaware of what is happening to them? Are fish sentient, can they suffer? Should we be worried about the declining numbers of fish in the ocean, and damage to ocean habitats?

At first glance, fish may seem completely different to us. They experience life differently – they live underwater for starters! However, the evidence is clear: fish do feel pain, amongst many other senses, meaning they can suffer. Fish live complicated, cleverly coordinated and sophisticated lives, even if they are not the same as us. 

Similar to us, fish have evolved complex nervous systems. They can detect potential harm through sensing changes in pressure waves, temperatures or electrical currents in their environment through specialized organs. Scientists have widely documented how fish do feel pain, that they are conscious and sentient. Just like in humans and other mammals, pain triggers  a response in their brain that encourages behaviors to attempt to eliminate or lessen the pain source. In fact, this behavior is observed in many non-human animals. Read more about how we are gaining recognition of the fact that fish feel pain here.

Fish show social behavior, and are sentient, feeling beings with the capacity to suffer. But many species of fish and many marine habitats are now critically endangered due to fishing. Marine environments are being dangerously degraded by trawlers destroying the natural ocean floor. Fish value their lives and the lives of their families. Let’s celebrate fish for the unique and worthy creatures that they are, and protect the beautiful and life-giving ocean habitats! 

Want to protect fish and the beautiful, complex marine life scientists are still finding out so much about?

Vegan fish and chips made using battered tofu and seaweed

Have you tried any fish-free, plant-based seafood? Try ordering or making your own easy vegan sushi or our favorite chickpea ‘tuna’ replacement to enjoy ocean-y flavors without all the fishy business of mega trawlers, and the suffering this brings to fish, dolphins, whales and other marine life.

Want to learn more about swapping out animal-based foods for plant-based ones for the good of the planet, animals, and your health? Join our next free vegan Challenge with vegan mentors and dietitians!

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