Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Abuse of Animals 1: Fish

Why should it matter that we use and abuse animals? What impact does it have on us? Will our treatment of animals, and fish too, backfire on us in the end?

It`s a tough subject with many aspects and I`ll be coming back to it in future blogs. As usual, I want to attempt to think about things with a slightly different slant, so here goes...

I have just seen a shocking documentary about worldwide over- fishing which is pushing many species of fish to the point of extinction. Fishing vessels of industrial capacity trawl for fish, catching all manner of sea creatures in their nets and when landed on deck, the unwanted species are dumped, dead, back into the sea. All of this sea life is part of the ocean`s ecosystem and plays its part in perpetuating a healthy and diverse marine environment, yet there is no concern for a practice that kills every creature as if it is merely a bi-product with no value whatsoever. The pervasive attitude is "take what you want, make your money, and don`t give a damn."

This attitude exists even though fish have been, and are being, fished to a point where it may be impossible for them to recover numbers. So why doesn`t even our greater self-interest prevail over this abuse of our seas? Why would we abuse our oceans full-knowing that we are destroying our food resources for the future? After all, we are repeatedly told that we may have difficulty feeding our growing population in times to come !!!! The answer is, of course, short term greed, but it is not just about greed, it is also about attitude, the way we regard our fellow creatures on this planet and the manner in which we fulfill our needs for food:We tend to think that it is our right to rear and slaughter animals and to catch and eat fish, that we are superior and they are there for us, that we may use them as we see fit. It is this presumption of RIGHT, in all it`s arrogance, that enables us to abuse the creatures around us with impunity.

Now, this blog is not about whether one should eat animals ....I`ll come back to that at a later date..... it is about how we treat them and why we think it okay to do whatever we wish without regard for them, their lives or, "heaven forbid", their feelings. Ah, feelings !!!!!!!!! Of course, once we compartmentalise animals as "other than like us", without feelings such as we possess, it becomes very easy to be cruel to them and to exploit them as a resource.

Within this regard for animals as being of lesser worth than us humans, I think that fish represent a special category and, really, demonstrate how we detach our sensitivities in a hierarchical way...We thought, in earlier blogs, about how we draw people into our group when we perceive them as "like ourselves" and that dolphins may be considered as honorary humans by virtue of their human characteristics, so, conversely, fish would be considered so "unlike us" that our compassion for them is on the bottom end of the scale.
Like I said in my dolphins blog, just as we discharge racism and discrimination and prejudice towards our fellow humans, so we do in respect of animals. We are so species-ist that we are (generally) committed to denying animal rights in the same way that we dug our heals in regarding the rights of black people. There is no difference.This position is, I believe, a kind of racism that can be termed here, speciesism.

A fish, commonly seen as "cold-blooded", unemotional and unintelligent, will not attract compassion and the way that blue fin tuna were barbarically impaled with giant hooks and dragged onto the ship with them, tells you everything you need to know about what happens to people or animals or fish when we perceive them as totally unlike us, without feelings or intelligence. As soon as we begin to view them as having like-qualities we can identify with them in some way,and it becomes impermissible to treat them this way.

Let`s create a global impulse to respect our planet and ALL of our creatures. We`ll get back to a discussion of animals as sentient, non-human persons a little later. I really hope you`ll join me.

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