Are Fish Sentient?
Breaking news: Marc Bekoff, PhD, published an article via Psychology Today last year that only recently made its way to me – a straight-forward paper that asserts that:
…fish perception and cognitive abilities often match or exceed other vertebrates. A review of the evidence for pain perception strongly suggests that fish experience pain in a manner similar to the rest of the vertebrates.
His article is based on research performed by Professor Culum Brown, which you can view here, and notes that “fish should be included in our moral circle” (with the same regard we give to other animals that are somewhat arbitrarily deemed worthy of a ‘humane’ death – such as chickens, cows, and pigs), summarizing the information in the link above as follows:
- They [fish] develop cultural traditions and can even recognize themselves and others
- They also show signs of Machiavellian intelligence, such as cooperation and reconciliation
- Professor Brown said the primary senses of the fish are “just as good” and in some cases better than that of humans.
- The level of mental complexity that fish display is on a par with most other vertebrates, while there is mounting evidence that they can feel pain in a manner similar to humans.
With that, I find myself having operated on my own series of false assumptions, completely (and embarassingly) unaware of fish being “sentient and emotional beings” prior to finding this article. In truth, I had always thought that this was the sort of thing that had been proven long ago (that fish don’t feel pain), and was passed along through the generations much in the same way one learns other types of typical behaviors growing up. As with all things, these are the contexts that require even further questioning, simply because of their nature as absolutes in most of our lives.
See the link below for a hearty summary with plenty of links for further reading.
Original article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201406/fish-are-sentient-and-emotional-beings-and-clearly-feel-pain
Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Puffer_Fish_DSC01257.JPG