Hooks hurt sharks

Dispute about the sensation of pain

Can Pisces Feel Pain? I ask this question to Robert Arlinghaus, he is a professor at the Leibnitz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries and at the Humboldt University in Berlin. "Strictly speaking, we can say little that can be stressed about the pain experienced by fish. There is no survey method that clearly differentiates between pain and unconscious stimulus processing," he explains. However, experts certainly know that fish lack the neocortex, i.e. the brain structures necessary for conscious pain perception in mammals. "Whether other brain regions have taken over the function of the neocortex in fish is pure speculation," he says.

But fish defend themselves as best they can when they are hooked, I object. "Behavioral reactions say nothing about emotional states and the experience of pain," replies Arlinghaus. "This confuses emotion-based pain with subconsciously processed nociception." Nociception stands for the ability to perceive damage; pain is only experienced in the brain. All that has been proven is that bony fish such as trout are capable of simple nociception, i.e. that they react to some harmful stimuli. Cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays, on the other hand, lacked nociceptors entirely. And yet they defend themselves when they are hooked, says the fish scientist. "It has only recently been shown in cod that they did not react at all to a hook inserted in the mouth area without being pulled by the fishing rod. There was also no stress reaction. One should be careful not to infer emotional states from behavioral reactions." From a scientific point of view, there are serious doubts about the ability to pain, says Arlinghaus. At least it must be stated that the question of pain has not been clarified.

So there are arguments that Pisces cannot feel pain like humans do. But there is no certainty. So should I give up fishing altogether?

Does the Animal Welfare Act help?

Perhaps my conflict can be resolved with another question: Is it rather good, neutral or rather bad for a fish if it is allowed to swim again with a torn mouth? "Nobody may inflict pain, suffering or harm on an animal without a reasonable reason," says Section 1 of the Animal Welfare Act. But what is a reasonable reason? That we get up full from the dining table in the evening? That I spend a relaxing day at the lake?

I often find myself not wanting to kill or eat my catch at all. Thank God, I often think to myself, I'm a remarkably bad angler. Most fishing days are tailor's days - an expression that no fish has bitten. That doesn't bother me much. A nice day by the water is good enough for me. But of course a fish bites the worm time and time again. Instead of killing the pike, perch or trout, I let the fish swim again, if allowed. If the fish is particularly handsome, I like to take a photo beforehand - just like countless other anglers. The Animal Welfare Act, Section 3, Paragraph 6 states: "It is forbidden to use an animal for a film recording, exhibition, advertisement or similar event, provided that it is associated with pain, suffering or damage to the animal".

I am in a dilemma. Assuming that it is actually not possible for fish to experience a feeling similar to human pain, as humans do, but one thing is certain: as soon as they hang on my hook, they suffer physical damage. Perhaps this is a way of finding an answer to my question of conscience.

"You should look for another job"

Philosopher Peter Singer doesn't have to think long before he answers me. "I think most people want a purpose in life. Some people find a point in putting a fishing line in the water and maybe catching a fish. If they sat there all afternoon without fishing, it would for them On the other hand, there are plenty of other things to do. Bird watch for example. Others find sense in hiking. If the day isn't determined by whether or not an angler catches something, then fishing is obviously what you're looking for something else."

I feel caught out. What do I expect from fishing? Certainly not a basket full of bloody fish that I put in the oven in the evening. Instead, I appreciate the undisturbed time in nature. For Peter Singer this is a point of criticism: "If you catch a fish and then throw it back, you stress the fish. I don't think it's acceptable to stress a fish seriously just because it makes your afternoon more satisfying. By one From a moral standpoint, find some other activity to enjoy your afternoon with. "

The conversations with philosopher Peter Singer and fish scientist Robert Arlinghaus leave me pensive. What am I actually looking for when fishing? And do I really have to pull fish out of the water to achieve this? An answer to these questions is forming in my head. I only want to fish when I want to eat fish. If all I really want is to be in nature, that's exactly what I'll do in the future. Enjoy sun, wind and rain without endangering animals. Even if that could mean going among the bird watchers.