Yet Another Group Weighs In On Lobster Pain Debate

In February, a Norwegian government report jumped into the debate about whether or not lobsters are capable of feeling pain, concluding that they are not, in fact, capable of doing so.

The Norwegian government commissioned a committee led by University of Oslo professor Wenche Farstad to prepare a 39-page report on whether or not lobsters felt pain, in which case they would be subject to revised animal welfare laws in that country. The report concluded that, “Lobsters and crabs have some capacity of learning, but it is unlikely that they can feel pain.” The report concluded that more study of crustaceans is needed to resolve the debate. The report also concluded that earthworms do not feel pain when placed on a fishhook, but that some types of insects such a honeybees might deserve special care.

Not surprisingly animal rights activists weren’t happy the rather ambiguous findings of the committee. PETA’s Karin Robertson told the Associated Press that the study was biased — not at all like PETA’s purely objective reports. According to Robertson,

This is exactly like the tobacco industry claiming that smoking doesn’t cause cancer.

Robertson told the AP that there are unbiased scientists that believe lobsters feel pain. As an example, she cited a Humane Society of the United States zoologist.


Debate simmers over just what lobsters feel when made a meal. Portland Press Herald, February 15, 2005.

Unlikely lobsters feel pain in boiling water. Associated press, February 15, 2005.

Worms on a hook don’t suffer? Reuters, February 7, 2005.

PETA — Spare the Rod and Spoil the Fish

People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals activists showed up here in Michigan in February to protest the eating of fish. Karin Robertson, manager of PETA’s Fish Empathy Project, told the Cadillac News,

People are horrified when they hear how fish are treated, there is cruelty so horrendous that it would be criminal if performed on other animals.

I don’t know about that — fishing’s pretty popular here in Michigan and I think many people are aware of how fish are caught and processed without being horrified.

Anyway, on its website, PETA goes on at length about the “terror” fish face,

Imagine reaching for an apple on a tree and having your hand suddenly impaled by a metal hook that drags you—the whole weight of your body pulling on that one hand—out of the air and into an atmosphere in which you cannot breathe. This is what fish experience when they are hooked for “sport.”

Many people grow up fishing without ever considering the terror and suffering that fish endure when they’re impaled by a hook and pulled out of the water. Recreational anglers rarely stop to contemplate that fish are complex and intelligent individuals. In fact, if anglers treated cats, dogs, cows, or pigs the way they treat fish, they would be thrown in prison on charges of cruelty to animals.

PETA also extols the intelligence of fish, who are apparently even smarter than the average animal rights activist,

Many people have never stopped to think about it, but fish are smart, interesting animals with their own unique personalities—just like the dogs and cats we share our homes with [not if PETA had its way, however]. Did you know that fish can learn to avoid nets by watching other fish in their group and that they can recognize individual “shoal mates”? Some fish gather information by eavesdropping on others, and some—such as the South African fish who lay eggs on leaves so that they can carry them to a safe place—even use tools.

Hey, I’ve even heard that some fish are smart enough to eat other fish. They’re so smart, in fact, they don’t have to deal with activists urging them to go vegan.


PETA attempts to sway people from eating fish. Matt Whetstone, Cadillac News, February 10, 2005.

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.

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.