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Thread: Fish and pain

  1. #1


    I read this on the forum of a non-angling website and thought it was interesting. The opening sentence is not very complimentary to anglers of course, but would it form the basis of a good reply in any anti-angling debate about fish and pain? Does any scientist amongst us know if the message below is true (apart from the muppets bit!)?

    "Who cares about fishing - the sad muppets sat by the river might need their heads testing but the fish donít care, they have no ability to care.

    Their life revolves around brain stem reactions to their environment, they do not have massively-developed neocortex and other specialized brain regions in the cerebral hemispheres, did you lot not go to school?

    If the cerebral hemispheres of a human are destroyed, a comatose, vegetative state results - like using the net fish donít give a toss, they have very small cerebral hemispheres that lack neocortex. If the cerebral hemispheres of a fish are destroyed, the fishís behaviour is quite normal, because the simple behaviours of which a fish is capable (including all of its reactions to nociceptive stimuli) depend mainly on the brainstem and spinal cord.

    so, a humanís existence is dominated by the cerebral hemispheres, but a fish is a brainstem-dominated organism with no ability to feel pain like us. they just react - same as a simple animal, like starfish or something, will move away from a nasty chemical even though it has no brain at all."

  2. #2
    Phil Hackett Guest


    It's not referenced Graham I'd be circumspect mate!

  3. #3


    I am Phil. I don't know what the big words mean, but it's just that it sounds so 'right'.

  4. #4
    Malcolm Smith Guest


    It sounds to me that the writer has just read Edward Alcamo, Anatomy @ Physiology or would like to fish but cannot either way what (in the words of Delboy) a Plonker.

  5. #5
    Steve Clements Guest


    Dont fish eat snails,mussels and other crustaceans etc? I've seen tv footage of a cod eating a live crab and despite the crab grabbing hold of the fishes lips, did not put the fish off, rather it (the cod) was inconvenienced by the prey keeping itself at arms length ,literally,but the crab was eaten after the fish removed the pincers and thus the only preventative measure its prey had.And what happens to the shells afterwards?

  6. #6
    Simon Webster Guest


    There are recent research reports about pain perception (nociception) in fish. I'll have a look. I seem to recall that some very good and useful work was done about a year ago or so at the Roslin Institute (Animal Welfare Group), by (I know the name of the researcher, but as this is a sensitive subject, I'd better not). I'll try to dig something out, (although this sort of work is somewhat difficult and sensitive, re. animal liberation loony types). My recollection is hazy, since this work was presented at a conference, but as far as I can recall, fish do feel something like pain, or at least discomfort, if neural correlates, ie morphology of specialised neurones responsible for the transmission of noxious stimuli are taken into account, although the neural architecture involved in nociception is nowhere near as sophisticated as that in a homeothermic vertebrate, or even a lower vertebrate, such as a frog. Intrestingly, the neural correlates associated with nociception seemed to be entirely lacking in elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays). Anyway, I'll see what I can dig up. I should add that the experiments did not involve any (perceived) trauma associated with hooking, since this sort of work is quite rightly beyond the pale as far as Home Office Animal Procedures are involved- ie, we must minimise or negate animal suffering in experiments involving vertebrates- I would add that we all take this VERY seriously- PS- I work on crabs- so these rules do not apply, but neverthe less, we always try to minimise trauma, and respect the animals. Simon

  7. #7
    Steve Baker Guest


    Simon why is this only present in bony (teleost) fish? Nociception?????

    If you were tickled (oooerr) Dont you show the same response as pain?

    You hook a worm does it reacts in pain or to the stimulus (worms have very simple nervous systems).

    Why is it that the scientist are never believed when they say that a response is not pain but just a reaction to a stimulus! People relate human characteristics to animals weather they are worms (muggers LOL perhaps even bikers onthe canal OOPPPS) or a higher animal!

  8. #8
    Simon Webster Guest


    Steve,thanks for the input. Nociception- a rather polite word for perception of an unpleasant stimulus, seems to be a universal feature of all multicellular life-Even a lowly flatworm will avoid touch, or an increase in acidity, light , whatever. Whether the animal avoids this stimulus depends on a number of things. Tickling certainly evokes an escape response though, although I think this sensation probably has only evolved in primates, where there are certain societal hierarchies and behavioural repetoires....... if you know what I mean..... However- have any of you lot tried tickling trout? I have (when I was really hungry), and it works, although its really just feeling for fish! (Don't tell the EA though).

    As for worms and molluscs feeling pain, the jury is out, although like us, they do produce opiate-like peptides, such as enkephalins and endorphins in their nervous systems, and opiate antagonists, such as naloxone are effective in reducing noxious -stimuli-related behaviour. In essence, the concept of perception of pain is rather academic- its a psychological phenomenon, and I would guess that perception of pain, and its avoidance is very much a thing of higher nervous systems, ie mammals and primates- and of course communication with other conspecifics is important in this regard (Don't touch that burning log John! etc.).The main thing that the topic is important with regard to angling, and the attack on it by various groups, is simple in essence. Is it cruel? Do the fish we catch suffer? I think the answer to both these questions should be NO- provided the angler is sufficiently motivated and skilled to minimise these things. Of course, the beneficial aspects of angling to well being and the improvement of the environment have long beeen flagged, but to most people, anglers are slightly eccentric, and.... "do you throw them back?" is the usual question! So much for now, Simon

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