Wednesday, July 9, 2008

FISH - To Eat Or Not To Eat (Part 1)

Now that scientific research has established the truth that commercial livestock farming is one of the top contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, people are finding it easier to accept the rationale that a plant-based diet will be less stressful on the environment and on our health.

Commercially raised livestock includes poultry, cows, pigs, sheep and goats. These farmed animals have received so much undivided attention from environmentalists that some of us tend to have overlook another equally common food/meat source - that of FISH.

I am sure many of us think it is alright to eat fish - reason being they live free in the ocean and so are not subjected to abuse like animal livestock. And they do not contribute to greenhouse gas emission. Yes, it may appear to be so but if we dive into the deep waters of their habitat, we may be surprised and shocked with our findings.

We will look at this subject based on the ecological, ethical and health aspects of whether it is alright to consume fish as an alternative to other meats.

ECOLOGICAL and ETHICAL aspects of commercial fishing:

(1) Bottom brawls are huge nets that drag on the ocean floor and 'catch' not only the target prey but also other species which often end up dead or injured and are discarded. Trawls are the most damaging as they destroy corals, sponges and marine biodiversity. Fish caught by these drag nets suffer immense trauma as they are suffocated and injured by the sheer weight.

(2) Longeline fishing are baited hooks on floating fishing lines that can run 80 miles long with thousands of hooks attached. They catch tuna, sharks, swordfish and others and often bait sea birds and turtles even. Records show that an estimated 180,000 birds died each year from this method, many of which are endangered and nearing extinction.

(3) Blast fishing employs the use of explosives which can produce large craters on the ocean floors. The explosions kill not only the target fish but also destroy other marine life, fauna, coral reefs and sometimes, even human lives.

(4) Poison - pesticides and cyanide are used by fishers to catch rare and small aquarium fishes that live in coral reefs. These poisons can effectively stun the fishes which are then collected and sold worldwide. Indiscriminate usage of poisons kill off many fishes, marine organisms including coral building organisms thus upsetting the eco-system of the deep. Healthy coral reefs plays an important role in the biodiversity of the ocean as they are home to many species of fishes.

(6) Harpoons - Whales, although the largest mammal on earth, are not able to escape man's urge for meat. Countless of them are still being hunted in the Antarctic and Arctic oceans.
A harpooned whale will put up a fight and this may last a long time thus leading to an agonising death. Some whalers use explosive harpoons which explode inside the whale's body causing injuries to its vital organs. Whales that refuse to die can be shot at until they gave up the fight to live. International laws on the protection of whales have been ignored and many endangered species are still being hunted down indiscriminately.

(7) Commercial fish farming (aquaculture) where fresh water fishes, shrimps, shellfish (cockles) and oysters are reared in cages, pens or ponds. Organic waste from these farms include uneaten food, antibiotics can pollute surrounding water quality. Their living quarters are sometimes so crowded that there is not enough space for movement much less sufficient oxygen for their survival.

These are but some of the destructive fishing methods still in practice today. And we can safely deduce that fishes that end up as food are on equal footing with animal livestock in their negative contribution to our environment. They are also abused and suffer pain just as like any living animals do.

What's your final analysis to the question : TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT?

The choice is yours to make. If you have chosen not to live on meat (chicken, beef, pork etc) you might do well to include taking fish off your menu too. In doing so, you will be taking another step towards saving the environment.

We will look into the HEALTH aspect in my next posting.
Meanwhile, you can obtain more info on this subject by Google search on "Destructive Fishing Methods" and "Harpooning Whales" on the web.

WE welcome your comments.

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