Alaska editorial: PETA's appeal to be nice to fish

This editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Posted: Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Every once in awhile, a story comes along that defies belief. We aren't talking about alien abduction stories, or two-headed-babies-with-a-gift-for-opera stories.

We're talking about stories like the fish empathy project of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals reported recently by The Associated Press. The photo accompanying the story showcased two members of PETA and a fake fish sporting a smile eerily similar to one of the human's.

That's one thing - fish, they don't smile, like humans or otherwise. They also don't meow or bark. Or pay mortgages. (They do, a lot of them, eat their young - unlike us humans and many of our warm-blooded mammalian brothers.)

PETA wants us to stop fishing because fish are smart and sensitive. After all, they point out, we wouldn't go fishing for dogs or cats.

Is it just us, or is this like saying we shouldn't drive cars because we wouldn't think of driving a flagpole? Perhaps we shouldn't walk our dogs because we wouldn't walk fish?

At some point, people who make a living trying to prevent other people from doing so are going to have to figure out that human beings, like every other natural thing on the planet, seek to survive.

Eating is a big part of survival. Just ask fish, and other sensitive, intelligent creatures - we all eat. Even the not so smart among us eat. Many creatures, like fish, eat other creatures. It's called "the food chain." Many of us draw the line at eating creatures like ourselves. Fish don't.

Salmon, for instance, are higher on the food chain than, say herring. So salmon eat herring. We, the human beings, are higher on the food chain than salmon. We eat salmon.

What with fish being so intelligent and sensitive and all, why isn't PETA trying to convince the salmon to change their diet? You know why. For one thing, there's no money in that.

For another, even if PETA were to sprinkle tofu in the water, they couldn't convince the fish to eat tofu instead of other fish. Fish, illustrating the intelligence PETA cites, ignore PETA and the rest of us, and go on about their business.

Only us sentient and self-conscious human beings pause for even a millisecond to consider whether we ought to feel guilty for existing.

It is not out of cruelty that human beings fish. It is with the instinct to survive using what is at hand that makes survival possible. We can be - and are - thankful for the food we eat, be it fish, venison, beef or chicken.

We in Alaska are more grateful than most to have been blessed with the best fish in the world. Wild Alaska salmon is good for our health as well as being tasty. We respect our food.

If being alive or sensitive were to rule an item out as a food source, we'd be in a heck of a fix. Ever notice a plant respond to tender, loving care? Uh-oh. No more being mean to plants by eating salad.

The PETA folk say fish are misunderstood. They've got that right. If we understood fish a little better, some of us would catch a lot more of them when king season rolls around.

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