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Editorial: Fishing Hurts
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Fishing: A "Sport" Baited
I recently spent a long weekend at the beach.
My girlfriend and I love it. We usually go to St. Pete Beach, on the west coast of Florida. It's a great escape from the hecticness of life. Us, the beach, a small efficiency apartment with a kitchen (for cookin' up tasty vegan meals), lots of wine and plenty of hope for good weather. This time, we had amazing weather and spent loads of time on the beach.
So, here we are, on the beach. The waves gracefully lapping up on the shore, carrying away little shells, creatures and grains of fine west coast Florida sand. The sun, high in the sky, heats the water, making it a delight to enter. People comb the sand for the most-visually appealing shells, while others frolic in the ocean. All of this beauty surrounds us, but each trip to the beach exposes cruelty as well.
A young boy and his father were on the beach, rods in hand, lines cast, waiting for the "exciting" moment when they would hook a fish and drag it in to shore. I saw how happy the boy was and it brought back many memories, both positive and not so.
I used to love fishing. I fished with my dad as a young kid in South Florida and with friends as I grew up. It was always a good time and, in hindsight, the fishing was of little import. Of course, catching a big fish was always a thrill.
Cruelty never crossed my mind, though. It wasn't even that I tried to rationalize it with stupid, false or illogical excuses like "fish don't feel pain" or "I throw 'em back." It was just a great way to pass a day with good company.
I would never have shot a deer or trapped a bear. It seemed violent and unfair. But fishing, I now realize, is no different. It's just hunting in water. I simply failed to recognize it until I began to care about animal rights issues and compassion towards non-human animals.
I remember, as a kid, I'd often use live bait. I'd have to make sure when I hooked the fish through the back that I avoided the backbone. Otherwise, the bait fish would die, rendering it useless. How cruel! It's amazing the way we are indoctrinated with behavior that so often ignores issues related to animal cruelty. From our dinner table to the purchasing of cats and dogs (as opposed to adopting) to such "hobbies" as hunting and fishing, children are raised with little respect for the pain and suffering humans inflict daily on non-human animals.
As we become a more enlightened species (we are, I hope), it's important that issues about compassion towards non-human animals become common subject matter in all homes. Fishing is a great place to start and it's necessary for parents to start teaching their kids that fishing is cruel and that there are other ways to spend long afternoons with family or friends.
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