PETA Asks Alabama … Umm, Make that Alaska … To Ban Salmon Fishing

In February, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Alabama Governor Frank Murkowski a letter asking that Murkowski put a stop to salmon fishing in that state. There was just one tiny little problem — Murkowski’s the governor of Alaska.

But that didn’t stop PETA’s Karin Robertson from addressing Murkowski as the “Governor of Alabama” in its letter asking the governor to, “. . . declare King Salmon, the state fish, off limits to fishing.”

Regardless of the confusion over states, Murkowski wasn’t having any of it. His press secretary, Becky Hultberg, told the Anchorage Daily News that the governor would like to see an increase in the king salmon catch,

We’d like to see more king salmon on the dinner plates of people on the East Coast. This clearly shows how out of touch this organization [PETA] is with the people of Alaska.

Bruce Friedrich told the Anchorage Daily News that this was simply a publicity stunt (what a shocker),

We hope that everybody will find it to be provocative and think about why we would ask the governor to take this step. The reality is that fish are interesting individuals and feel pain every bit as much as dogs and cats.

So this is murder, right?

And yet PETA doesn’t want to let us shoot these killers to defend the poor salmon.

Friedrich adds that instead of salmon, people should, “Try walnuts and spinach.” Sure Bruce, just as soon as you talk that bear into a “cruelty-free” diet.


PETA seeks statewide king fishing ban. Peter Porco and Doug O’Harra, Anchorage Daily News, February 19, 2005.

PETA tries to outlaw catching, eating of salmon. Yvonne Ramsay, KTUU.Com, February 18, 2005.

Missouri Legalizes Fishing With Bare Hands

Missouri Conservation Committee agreed in late 2004 to a trial season of handfishing in that state for summer 2005.

Some variety of handfishing is already legal in 11 states, though in Missouri it has long been punishable by a fine. Critics of handfishing argue that participants will inevitably target the most sexually mature fish and thus disproportionately deplete the number of fish capable of breeding.

According to the Associated Press, handfishing is also not for the faint of heart,

It can also be dangerous: Noodlers [another term for handfishing] hold their breath for long periods under water and sometimes come up with fistfuls of agitated snakes or snapping turtles instead of fish.

Missouri’s handfishing season will last from June 1 through July 15, 2005. Handfishers will buy a $7 permit and can catch five catfish daily, with fish under 22 inches long having to be thrown back. In addition, handfishing will only be legal along specific parts of the Fabius, St. Francis and Mississippi rivers.


Missouri approves fishing with bare hands. Scott Charlton, Associated Press, December 28, 2004.

PETA Wants Jimmy Carter to Give Up Angling

After former U.S. president Jimmy Carter appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and described how he was accidentally hooked on the face while fishing, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals fired off a letter urging Carter to give up his “cruel” habit of fishing.

Karin Robertson, PETA’s Fish Empathy Project Manager, wrote to Carter saying,

I am writing on the behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the world’s largest animal rights organization, with more than 800,000 members and supporters worldwide. I am writing to ask you to please consider recent research indicating that fish are as intelligent as dogs and cats and to most respectfully ask that you take up hiking, bird-watching, or boating without your rod and reel as an alternative to fishing, which causes the animals on the end of the line immeasurable agony.

I have grown up deeply impressed by your dedication to making the world a kinder, better place. Your post-presidential missions, both internationally and domestically, rightly impress the entire world. That’s why we are optimistic that our plea on behalf of other species will fall on sympathetic ears.

I heard you discussing, on Jay Leno’s program, how you were hooked through the face while fishing and the agony of having the hook pulled out of your face while you were held down. Our hope is that this experience may have given you a little insight into the fish’s point of view–every hooked fish experiences the physical agony that you went through.

Beyond the fact that fish feel pain in the same way and to the same degree that you and I do, please consider that fish are also interesting individuals–as worthy of our concern as any dog or cat, animals you would never deliberately hook through the mouth, of course.

Bruce Friedrich chimed in that unlike Carter, fish “can’t go to the hospital” for their injuries (well, if they’d get jobs and a decent health plan . . .)


PETA has a beef with Jimmy Carter’s fishing. U.S. News and World Report, January 10, 2005.

PETA Encourages President Jimmy Carter to Show Fish Some Empathy! Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Undated.

PETA Launches "Turn In Your Tackle" Campaign

In September, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a new “Turn In Your Tackle” campaign in an effort to convince people to abandon fishing.

In a press release announcing the new campaign, PETA said,

. . . Fish deserve compassion just as all animals do. They are intelligent and they experience pain and suffering every bit as much as any dog or cat. We’re calling on people to send us their old poles, tackle, and other fishing gear so that we can use it in our demonstrations and other Fish Empathy Project endeavors.

. . .

Donate Today!

You can make sure that Grandpa’s old fishing rod won’t cause any more pain and suffering. Donate your (and his) fishing rods and reels to PETA! Just like the fur coats that we collect, your donation of fishing gear will help with our educational displays and anti-fishing demonstrations around the world.


“Turn In Your Tackle!” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, September 2004.

Genetically Modified Fish Produce Blood Clotting Agent

Researchers at the UK’s University of Southampton and U.S. biotech company AquaGene have created a genetically modified fish which produces the human blood clotting agent factor VII.

Factor VII is used to treat a rare form of hemophilia as well as being used to treat gunshot wounds.

Currently factor VII is available commercially as NovoSeven — an injectable factor VII made from genetically modified hamster cells. Unfortunately growing hamster cells is surprisingly expensive, and a single injection of NovoSeven can cost up to $10,000.

Producing factor VII in fish would be much cheaper because researchers can achieve higher yields of the protein. According to researcher Norman Maclean,

Each milliliter of human blood has about 500 nanograms of the protein. We were able to match that yield in the blood of our fish.

Maclean has produced several variants of the fast-growing freshwater fish tilapia which are genetically modified to secrete factor VII from their livers and into their bloodstreams.

Maclean and AquaGene must now prove to the satisfaction of health agencies that the factor VII produced by the genetically modified fish is similar enough to human factor VII and that it is safe to use in humans before clinical trials could begin.

Interestingly, animal rights activists frequently claim that human beings are just too different from animals for things like NovoSeven or this new fish-derived effort to work. In this case, though, it is the difference between animals and human beings that makes using animals as a source for factor VII attractive.

Factor VII can be derived from human sources, but it requires expensive filtering to ensure that no human diseases are passed between the donor and the ultimate recipient. So far, there is no evidence that diseases can be passed from factor VII derived from hamsters or fish, making animal-based products superior to the human-based alternatives.


GM fish produce cheap blood-clotting agent. New Scientist, September 8, 2004.

Animal Rights Groups File Lawsuit Against USDA Over Cormorants

In February, four animal rights groups filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to prevent new rules for killing the double-crested cormorant (a fish eating bird) from going into effect.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States filed the lawsuit to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruling to allow state, federal and tribal officials in 24 states to kill cormorants in order to prevent the birds from killing too many fish.

In the 1960s and 1970s the cormorant was threatened. Since 1972, cormorants have been protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be killed without the approval of the federal government. In the intervening years, the cormorant recovered and thrived to the point where fisherman and owners of fish farms complain that the cormorant is cause a significant decline in fish populations in many parts of the country.

In a press release announcing its lawsuit, the groups said,

The recent decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allow state fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, and USDA agents to kill unlimited numbers of cormorants — in 24 states where the birds are allegedly depleting fish stocks for sport fishing, and in 13 states where they are said to impact commercial fish farms — without any restrictions on time of year or location of the killings, and without showing any specific, localized harm caused by the birds. The government’s decision also allows, for the first time, killing of cormorants at the birds’ winter nesting sites by shooting, gassing, and breaking their necks, as well as destroying their nests and eggs.

The organizations filing the suit — The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida — point to studies indicating that the amount of fish eaten by cormorants represents only a small fraction of fish productivity, and suggesting that fish-eating birds like cormorants tend to eat diseased or dying fish because they are easier to catch, and therefore play a beneficial role at fish farms by decreasing the potential spread of disease. The FWS itself has flatly conceded that “commercially and recreationally valuable fish do not generally make up a large proportion of [cormorants’] diet.”

The oddest statement from the group came from The Fund for Animals president Mark Markarian who offered this interesting defense of hunting,

Cormorants, like many other birds, eat fish to survive, and should not be punished for doing what comes naturally. Writing a blank check to kill tens of thousands of protected birds at any time and any place is an extreme knee-jerk reaction to placate the sport fishing and commercial fish farming industries.

Why couldn’t the cormorants just learn to switch to a vegan diet? And why is The Fund not so understanding when humans just do what comes naturally and hunt/fish for food?

The full text of the lawsuit can be read here (97kb PDF).


Federal lawsuit filed to stop mass killing of double-crested cormorants. Fund for Animals, Press Release, February 5, 2004.

Animal group sues over cormorants killing. Frederic J. Frommer, Associated Press, February 6, 2004.