You Will Hate Haribro

Below is a guest post by the animal and human rights activist and supporter of free software Luis Leonel.


Haribo gummy bear ingredients made by modern slaves, documentary shows

“Much-loved German confectioner Haribo has come under intense criticism after a documentary discovered cruel conditions in the manufacture of a key ingredient in Brazil. Pigs also suffer in the making of gelatin.

Germany’s global candymaker Haribo was forced on the defensive on Thursday after a documentary by public broadcaster ARD revealed horrifying conditions for both the animals and humans responsible for the manufacture of key ingredients of the much-loved gummy bears and other Haribo products.

The 45-minute documentary Markencheck (“brand check”) examined both the health and production issues of Haribo products, which are sold all over the world, and found failures of oversight in the production of carnauba wax and animal gelatin that left some of Brazil’s poorest workers, and pigs in industrial farms in Germany, suffering in horrific conditions.”

Please read the complete article:

Snake Rescued From Glue Trap

Four decades later, I do not need to be reminded that rabbits are often a nuisance to farmers and gardeners. My point is that when you look at a rabbit and can see only a pest, or vermin, or a meal, or a commodity, or a laboratory subject, you aren’t seeing the rabbit anymore. You are seeing only yourself and the schemes and appetites we bring to the world–seeing, come to think of it, like an animal instead of as a moral being with moral vision.”
Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

Just so good to see people care about animals and not only the more favoured cats or dogs but an animal who people care little about,  a tiny snake caught in a vicious glue trap where he would have died an horrific and lingering  death.

“While the rescue of any animal is wonderful, it’s always so heartwarming to see displays of compassion for the most misunderstood members of the animal kingdom – whether it be an insect, snake, or bat. All living things deserve respect and compassion, and that is just what these kind gentlemen gave a snake who was caught on a glue trap.

We can’t imagine the terror the poor little snake must have felt not being able to move”

Please continue reading – includes advice about how to humanely deal with so called pests.

I hate the word pest and vermin, no animal is a pest, all are part of nature. A rat or a cockroach does not deliberately intend to cause anyone any inconvenience, they are simply doing what they do, living life as nature intended. This is their world too. Of course you cannot allow rats, mice, cockroaches or anything else to enter your home, contaminate your food and so on but please divert them humanely.

Here are more ideas how to humanely deter unwanted animals along with actions you can take to stop the sale of glue traps :

Take Action 

Ideas about what to do if you see an animal caught in a glue trap and actions you can take to stop the sale of these cruel traps. Includes human ways to Send Rodents Packing:

The RSPCA are opposed to the sale of glue traps

“We’re opposed to the manufacture, sale and use of all glue traps because they cause unacceptable suffering and are totally indiscriminate in what they catch, often ensnaring wild animals like birds and even pets!”

The RSA ask you to do the following if you see anyone selling glue traps

What are the RSPCA doing and how can I help?

“For the past year, we’ve been running our “Wild Animals and Glue Traps” project. We agree that, as outlined in the Code of Practice Humane for the Use of Rodent Glue Boards, if these traps have to be used, they should only be used by, trained professionals. As part of this project, we’re asking that anyone who sees glue traps on sale to the general public to write to us at with:

  • Name and address of the store where the traps are being sold (include postcode where possible).
  • The manager or owner of the store concerned (if known) and the address if different to above.
  • The date you saw the traps on sale.

We’ll then write to the retailer and ask them to consider stopping the sale of glue traps at their store, remove all glue traps from their stock and not to re-stocking them in the future – to prevent the problem reoccurring. The project has been very successful and many stockists have taken these traps off their shelves. Among our success stories, we made Amazon UK aware of the sale of rodent glue traps on their site and, in line with their pre-existing policy against such traps; they then promptly had the items removed.”

Continue reading the full article:

Concerning the above: glue traps are shockingly cruel and should be banned and not used by anyone, trained professionals or otherwise.

Please NEVER use a glue trap.

Please do not subject a helpless little animal to such suffering, be it a rat, mouse, snake or cockroach.

Read the story of this person’s childhood experiences of glue traps:

How Glue Traps Ruined My Childhood:

“I grew up in the Midwest, and every so often little mice from a neighboring field would occasionally find their way into our home and set up shop. On one such occasion, we picked up a package of glue traps from the local hardware store and set them out around the house. Back then, I didn’t realize just how horrifying a little glue trap could be.”

Please continue reading       Warning there are images of small animals struggling to free themselves from glue traps which are very upsetting. 

Incidentally concerning the above quotation I find the implication that animals do not have morals rather misleading. All animals have their own standards of morality, even so called pests. Such as the rat who was reported to be leading another blind rat:

In Hans Ruesch’s Slaughter of the Innocent, he mentions two incidences where rats have been seen to demonstrate this altruism:

“When rats discover poisoned food morsels, they cover them with their faeces, to warn other less perceptive members of the community.”

“A British miner once saw two large rats proceeding slowly along a roadside, each holding one end of a straw in its mouth. The miner clubbed one of them to death. To his surprise, the other rat didn’t move, so the miner bent down to observe it more closely. It was blind and was being led by the other.”

While I do not agree with any kind of experiment on any animal for any reason however seemingly benign, and causing anxiety as in the video below, is not benign of course, I have included it here as they demonstrate that rats care about and will help other rats. The footage shows that rats have empathy and are moral creatures, empathy and offering assistance to alleviate suffering is considered as moral by human standards.

“A series of experiments tested whether or not rats help each other out in moments of distress. It turns out not only will rats work towards freeing an anxious cage mate, but they’ll even forgo a treat to do so. A recent study tested rats’ empathic behavior. In order to do so, two rats were placed in a divided cage with only a door connecting them.”

Continue reading the video’s description by clicking watch on Youtube


Save Our NHS

“No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
Aneurin Bevan

 The NHS needs just £300 million for it to cope

We surely all agree that this is drastic action which should under no circumstances be considered ever.

Nor drastic action like this:

Jeremy Hunt considers barring walk-in patients from A&E:

or this

We need to talk about NHS rationing so says Dr David Turner

No we need to talk about the tax payers money adequately funding the NHS rather than spending this money on other less important things – after all what the hell is more important than our health. Certainly not all the roads that are tearing up what little countryside we have, did you know that on average a mile of motorway costs a whopping £30 million!  The M74 extension opened in Glasgow at a cost of £692m, which works out at £138.4m per mile or £78,000 a yard (£86,500 a metre). 

I can’t find any information regarding the total amount of money spent for the last year or any other information about annual expenditure on roads which the Tories seem over zealous in building in recent years. However as any motorist knows road building has been prolific in the last two or three years involving new roads and extensions to existing roads. Many in my opinion unnecessary. Money going straight into the bank accounts of private contractors no doubt.

We also need to consider the enormous amount of money spent on so-called defence – when were we last attacked –  For the fiscal year ending in March 2018:
UK Defence spending was reported to be £45.4 billion.

In addition there is money from tax avoidance, click the arrow below to see what revenue collected from tax dodgers would provide for the NHS:

We need to talk about taking tax from those who can afford it, big corporations and other tax avoiders and dodgers. It’s time to increase the tax for the rich.

It is estimated that that big business potentially underpaid £25bn in UK taxes last year.  The government it seems are going after poor people who top up low wages or benefits by selling on ebay, dog walking and other odd jobs rather than target corporations. Again as is always the case, the government is working ‘for the few’ while penalising the many, but that is another blog for another time perhaps. Some estimates put this figure much higher at £34 billion.

We are the sixth richest country in the world, surely there is money for healthcare, if there is not the government must find it, reduce the road construction budget and “defense”spending  which since 9/11 has rose from £28 billion to £45 billion, take it from the wealthy with higher taxation. Why should someone live in a huge house, an expensive apartment, have zillions in the bank, yachts, holidays, second third homes while others die unnecessarily while our health service flounders?

The NHS needs just £300 million for it to cope with the winter crisis – well a third can be found by cancelling the £118 m Parliament fire safety upgrade allocated as funding for tower blocks refused

Maybe a drop in the ocean you might think but add all these drops add up and they become more significant. There is sufficient resources in the UK to provide the best healthcare for everyone. Ask most people what is more important than health, I doubt if anyone will say more road building.

Frankly I think the government intend to deliberately send the NHS into crisis to prepare the ground for full privatisation which could well pave the way for an American style healthcare system with disastrous consequences of which I am sure most people are aware.


“We are on a precipice: the NHS has been severely damaged by underfunding and privatisation”
Quote from:

Keep Our NHS Public

Information and actions you can take to save our NHS

Defend our NHS. 

Write to your MP

Contact MP

Demand a fully funded NHS where the latest in health care is available to everyone and where the staff are paid a decent wage in keeping with all the hard and stressful work they put in caring for us all.

Check out the following on Twitter for lots of the latest information and actions you can take

Keep Our NHS Public

Stand With Our NHS

NHS Million

If we do not do something now, our free healthcare provision will be a thing of the past.

Here is an example of what awaits you when the NHS is gone:

Help End Mountain Hare Shooting in Scotland

“Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is — whether its victim is human or animal — we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing, we set back the progress of humanity.” 
Rachel Carson

The hunting, shooting, slaughter, massacre whatever you want to call this cruel insanity – certainly not sport or recreation- of helpless animals is now in full swing here in the UK. I find this a very depressing time to be out and about in the countryside as this sadistic minority can pop up almost anywhere as they pursue relentlessly their cruel pastime.

Scottish Mountain Hare – who would want to kill such a beautiful gentle animal?

Many animals lose their lives at this time of year simply to satisfy the warped pleasures of a small group of people. One of these animals is the Scottish mountain hare.

If you loath hunting and shooting please join me in signing and sharing the following petition calling for VisitScotland to stop promoting recreational mountain hare shooting.

Please take action and sign now:

Click this link for more information

As many signatures as possible are required so please share widely

The article by the Sunday Herald Under fire: VisitScotland promotes shooting of hares for sport exposed VisitScotland’s support of mountain hare killing and publicised this new campaign.

Also read the following from the same newpaper:  Killing for fun is not a sport  

“Wouldn’t it be better to encourage visitors to pay to watch and wonder at wild animals, rather than blow them to bits? Shooters    argue that mountain hare populations are healthy on sporting estates. But conservation groups say their status is uncertain, and    are demanding a halt to mass culls. Even if mountain hares are surviving, is it acceptable to market their mass shooting as a hobby? Is this the kind of role a modern, civilised Scotland really wants to have in the world? We doubt it.”

Tens of thousands of hares are shot in Scotland

Forty percent of hares killed in Scotland is for so called “sport”

Hunters some from all over the world to kill Scottish wildlife.

More are culled/killed by gamekeepers on sporting estates to help preserve red grouse for shooting.

Cruelty such as his has no place in any civilised society

Please sign the petition.

Click this link for more information

Related links and more action to protect hares

Information about hares from the League against cruel sports and actions you can take to help them.

Veganism is More Than Just a Diet

Racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination, including speciesism, are all forms of violence. They are all wrong. The abolitionist approach to animal rights maintains that we cannot see animal exploitation in isolation from these other forms of violence and that we must reject them all. So go vegan, embrace nonviolence, and reject all discrimination.”

Gary L Francione

Veganism is more than just a diet, it is a way of life – at least it should be.

An on-inline question on an internet forum asked: “is it okay to have an abortion if you are vegan?” I am astounded by such a question, though there is no clear cut yes or no as such an action depends on circumstances*. But generally speaking an abortion willy-nilly for convenience most certainly cannot be considered by any ethical vegan surely!  It’s hard to understand how someone could be for the rights of animals to live but not for the rights of humans before they are even born. Veganism for me is a way of life, a statement of non violence to all beings, human and nonhuman animals, born or unborn.

Veganism also means concern about and the advocation for the protection of our environment. The willful neglect and exploitation of our natural world cannot be condoned or participated in by anyone who is an ethical vegan as it harms all creatures both now and in the future, both human and nonhuman.

Veganism for me includes not only the abolition of speciesism but also of racism, sexism ageism intelligenceism … any discrimination towards any sentient being.

I hope to discuss in more detail all topics relating to vegan ethics but for this article today I will focus mainly on discrimination, in particular racism.

I am shocked when I come across vegans who are racist, this being the most common and most violent category of discrimination concerning humans.

The ethics of veganism has no place for racism. Regardless of race we are all one species, all sentient beings, all animals, all mammals as is a pig, a sheep, a cow or your cat or dog. You cannot promote the rights of non human animals while ignoring or even worse promoting harmful ideas such as racism, which leads to violent actions, towards the human animal.  Incidentally animals have a thing or two to teach us about racism, anyone ever notice different breeds of dogs, rabbits, sheep, pigs and others segregating themselves from each other. To a rabbit another rabbit is a rabbit whether he or she is a dutch dwarf rabbit or a continental giant rabbit, a black rabbit or a while rabbit. To a rabbit, a rabbit is a rabbit is a rabbit.

Regarding racism I have to say that I utterly loathe the term “people of colour”, used in the US to refer to anyone who is not white,  this in itself is racist, discriminatory, a label dividing white from anyone who isn’t. It is difficult I know to describe the people we are concerned about without causing offence but surely if you really have to refer to someone’s race terms like African American, Spanish American, white American whatever their country of origin rather than People of Colour. The only time you need to refer to the color of someone’s skin or race is if circumstances necessitate providing a description of someone where you would also include gender, hair colour, height, weight and any other characteristics which aid recognition. Why the hell are people so prejudiced against anyone whose skin is a different colour other than white. What about hair no one seems to care what color your hair is and you are unlikely to face discrimination as a result of hair colour, so why skin?

Consider the following:

“Vegan groups or individuals will pay lip service to the notion of no racism, sexism, abelism and so on…but then do nothing about these odious implementations of oppression and/or exploitation. The sad sad truth is that if we aren’t actively working against this crap we’re (inadvertently or not) supporting it…either passively or actively.

If you oppose oppression…and then focus your efforts solely on preventing harm to one group of oppressed beings while ignoring other instances of oppression…or only paying lip service to being against those other instances…you’re sort of exposing yourself as not being real serious about ending oppression.”

Continue reading:

“White Veganism is a reference to mainstream veganism—which is, undeniably very white, narrow, one sided and ignores intersectionality. It aims to expose and erase the invisibility of oppression on other animal bodies to the masses, while simultaneously ignoring and being silent about the very visible injustice and oppression of black and brown bodies, femme bodies, or differently-abled bodies. Sometimes even utilizing the history of oppression on Black bodies and other oppressed groups as a tool to promote veganism.

Continue reading

If you are vegan there should not be any place for racism in your life or any other kind of discrimination. You may harbour such thoughts, as we cannot help what we think as many people are brought up to believe in such prejudices and the terminology attached to them may stick in your mind, but in your deeds you should not support or promote racism or any other prejudice including sexism, ageism, heterosexism, religious intolerance, intelligencism and so on and on…all bring about harm. Regarding intelligencism, though not a word used often if indeed it is a word at all, both humans and nonhuman animals are often the subject of discrimination resulting from their level of intelligence. Non human animals considered as having less intelligence are often considered less important, even by some vegans than more intelligent animals – most people care about dolphins, primates, dogs  and other animals considered more intelligent but fewer care about insects or fish, animals considered less intelligent though evidence is slowly showing that fish and insects are more intelligent than people think. But this is beside the point, the life of any creature is important to that being regardless of how intelligent an animal is, intelligence in any case measured by human criterion in comparison to human intelligence. Likewise with humans people higher on the IQ scale are considered more highly than those who rate much lower and people of lower intelligence are discriminated against, are the but of jokes, are generally poorer, paid less and marginalised.

It should be mentioned that there is a difference between a vegan diet and a vegan lifestyle. If you are embracing a vegan diet you may be doing so only for reasons of improving your health, though most people adopting a vegan diet for this purpose may be more likely to describe themselves as being on a plant-based diet.

Going vegan for some can simply mean cutting out animals derivatives in food. Such a person may continue to wear leather and in all other respects may not change their standards of ethics in regards to either human or nonhuman animals. Don’t get me wrong even if you are on a vegan/plant based diet for personal health considerations this is great news all round not only for your wellbeing but also inadvertently for animals and the environment. The above is not intended as a criticism of people on vegan diets for health reasons.

However if you are an ethical vegan your concern should include both human and nonhuman animals equally without any from of discrimination. Veganism for me is an all encompassing ethic to endeavour to avoid harm to any living being whenever possible in any form. You might find it a struggle to maintain such an ethic or even reach the point of what the Hindus, Jains and Buddhists call ahimsa (non-violence) of which Gandhi was an advocate, but please at least be mindful to do your utmost to avoid harmful actions towards human and nonhuman animals including discrimination.

More quotations from Gary L. Francione regarding veganism as an all encompassing ethic of nonviolence and non discrimination.

“We should always be clear that animal exploitation is wrong because it involves speciesism. And speciesism is wrong because, like racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism, classism, and all other forms of human discrimination, speciesism involves violence inflicted on members of the moral community where that infliction of violence cannot be morally justified. But that means that those of us who oppose speciesism necessarily oppose discrimination against humans. It makes no sense to say that speciesism is wrong because it is like racism (or any other form of discrimination) but that we do not have a position about racism. We do. We should be opposed to it and we should always be clear about that.” 
Gary L. Francione

“Ethical veganism results in a profound revolution within the individual; a complete rejection of the paradigm of oppression and violence that she has been taught from childhood to accept as the natural order. It changes her life and the lives of those with whom she shares this vision of nonviolence. Ethical veganism is anything but passive; on the contrary, it is the active refusal to cooperate with injustice”
Gary L. Francione

“If you are not vegan, please consider going vegan. It’s a matter of nonviolence. Being vegan is your statement that you reject violence to other sentient beings, to yourself, and to the environment, on which all sentient beings depend.”
Gary L. Francione

“Forty-two years after Dr. King was murdered, we are still a nation of inequality. People of color, women, gays, lesbians, and others are still treated as second-class citizens. Yes, things have changed but we have still not achieved equality among all humans. And nonhuman animals continue to be chattel property without any inherent value.” 
Gary L. Francione

“Ethical veganism represents a commitment to nonviolence.” 
Gary L. Francione

Gary L. Francione is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark.”

“Professor Francione has been teaching animal rights and the law for more than 29 years, and he was the first academic to teach animal rights theory in an American law school.”

Read more about Gary L. Francione:

Related Links

The Sistah Vegan Project: A Critical Race Feminists Journey Through The ‘Post Racial’ Ethical Food Scape…And Beyond

More than a Diet, More than a Lifestyle

I am no ‘person of colour’, I am a black African woman

* Concerning abortion. To avoid the need to respond to the heated comments this topic often generates I  will here state my position on abortion.

Firstly while pro life or anti abortion is seemingly more associated with the right, I state now that I am firmly left wing. Pigeonholing issues such as abortion in reference to political persuasion is in my opinion ludicrous.

Considering this,  you might find this interesting:

Being pro-life doesn’t make me any less of a lefty

My stance on abortion is that it should only be carried out in very special circumstances such as the poor health of the mother:  If the mother’s life is at risk or if she has a serious mental health condition, but the latter only after much consultation.

Help Prevent The Unjust Deportation of Hadija Mwenshee

It is outrageous and a grave social injustice that the UK should even consider deporting any asylum seeker to a country where he or she is likely to face death or imprisonment, which is the case for Hadija Mwenshee.  Surely this is what the term asylum means, sanctuary from harm and threat to life or liberty.

Here is the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition asylum:  protection or safety, especially that given by a government to people who have been forced to leave their own countries for their safety or because of war

Please read the following and sign and share the petition

“The UK Government says, “We don’t deport LGBT asylum seekers and we never will.” Is that a lie? Let’s stop the deportation and detention of HADIJA.A. MWENSHEE NOW!

We, the undersigned, petition the Home Office to free Hadija Mwenshee [HO Ref M1446619] from detention, and not to deport her to Tanzania, where she faces a grave risk of harm and a threat to her life and liberty. 

Hadija is a Tanzania lesbian who has been active in the LGBTI community in the UK. She is much loved and respected in our community, and we reject any suggestion that she is somehow not a genuine lesbian.

Hadija has a visible online presence, and gay haters and tabloids have already published her in their news accusing her of explicitly promoting homosexuality in the UK.

Please allow Hadija to continue her life in the UK and to live freely in an open and tolerant society.

Hadija left Tanzania after leaving her husband whom, for the years she was married to him, treated her as a slave: daily mistreatment, humiliation, and rape.”

Continue reading for more information and to sign the petition:

Please share widely.

The outcome for Hadija is bleak if she returns to Tanzania, this deportation must be stopped.

Further action.

Please write to the home office:

Urge the UK Home Office to:
(i) release Hadija from deportation
(ii) agree to reconsider her case

Please write to the UK Home Office
Quoting Hadija Mwenshee
Home Office Reference [M1446619]

Contact Home Office

Home Office

Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. The minicom service is for members of the public with impaired hearing.

UKVI contact details

More contact information:  You will need to scroll down

Fish Are Sentient Beings


Of all the animals on earth, with the exception perhaps of insects arachnids and other tiny creatures colloquially referred to as creepy crawlies, fish it seems are the least valued or considered as sentient beings.

Fish are intelligent animals who lead complex lives that rival those of your dog and other mammals.

The forgotten fish: a new look at our underwater friends

“Fish are one of the most misunderstood species of the animal kingdom. Long believed to be unfeeling, primitive creatures, scientists are now discovering that fish feel pain and are sensitive social beings.”

Dolphins and whales are accepted without doubt as intelligent creatures, sensitive, aware, conscious: sentient. But what about other aquatic creatures –  the myriad species of fish, 2,7000 in all, which is more than all vertebrate species combined – are they sentient? Approximately three new species of fish are discovered each week! And even more vast are the huge numbers of species of other marine creatures, invertebrates such as molluscs – octopuses, squids, snails, slugs.  Do they possess sentience? The ocean is a vast habitat teeming with life, astronomical in number and diversity, creatures dwell even in the most inhospitable of environments.

Here I will focus my attention on fish as it is these creatures who are mostly exploited as food, however in the catching of fish many other aquatic animals suffer and die as a consequence and you can read why by clicking here:
Animal Rights: Aquatic Animals.

The reason that this article will only focus on fish however does not imply that other aquatic creatures lack sentience, in my opinion most animals are sentient.

What are the indicators that fish are sentient.

It is often considered that fish are primitive life forms, however as the oldest vertebrate group of animals they have been evolving for 400 million years, they have had time to evolve complex and diverse behaviours. Because of their amazing diversity fish are said to be the most successful of all vertebrates.

One good indicator of sentience is a creature’s ability to express emotion, but how is emotion expressed in fish? How do we know that a fish feels distress or fear, how do we know if he or she feels pain or joy or experiences pleasure? Another good indicator of sentience is intelligence, are fish intelligent? Many people think not, but research is proving otherwise.

Pain is the most basic indicator of sentience, but do fish experience pain? The excuse of anglers when catching fish with hooks that pierce their mouths is that this area is numb and they do not feel pain. As you will see later on this is one of the most erroneous misconceptions of all the incorrect ideas many people have concerning fish, it is as unfounded as the notion that cows keep producing milk.

Of all animals exploited for food, fish are thought to be the least sentient and sadly this is due to a number of misconceptions, most notably their lack of facial expression which many people think equals a lack of feeling and conscious awareness, in other words sentience, and are consequently not capable of feeling pain or emotion. This is an incorrect assumption. Consider dolphins and Whales who similarly lack expression, at least in comparison with how we show feelings, yet few would deny that dolphins or whales are sentient, intelligent and that they feel pain.

In her article ‘What Fish Feel’ researcher Stephanie Yue of the University of Guelph in Canada explains the findings of her team and discusses the ethical implications. The following are extracts concerning the findings of research into the sentience of fish, which among other points of relevance demonstrates that rainbow trout not only have the ability to learn but also to recall what they have learnt.

Expressing her concern about the increase in the consumption of fish and the use of them in medical research, Ms.Yue considers that the problem is that most people experience an emotional distance from fish and consequently do not consider them as sentient, as creatures who feel pain or experience emotion. She says;

This may be because our present knowledge of assessing suffering in fish is inadequate— in part because fish do not typically display traditional and obvious signs we are familiar with in other animals. They are not capable of facial expression, nor can most species of fish vocalize; given their general anatomical structure, changes in body posture are extremely limited.

However, recent anatomical, physiological, neuropharmacological and behavioral studies suggest fish can suffer in ways similar to “higher” vertebrate animals.

From our studies on highly domesticated rainbow trout, we have seen these fish show behavior that is much more flexible and complex than was previously acknowledged. We have found that trout have some cognitive capacity that rivals that of mammalian laboratory animals, like rats. They not only show the ability to learn, but they also have memory of the things they learned—so they can anticipate events and adjust their behavior accordingly. This means some of their behavioral repertoire is “purposeful” and lends evidence toward “conscious” behavior.

What Fish Feel a report by Stephanie Yue

In addition to the above there is and has been considerable research into the sentience and intelligence of fish.

The fact is fish are conscious creatures, they are sentient, research demonstrates that they are far from the automatons we have been led to believe.

Lets start with the most popular criterion which many people adhere to as indicative of sentience: intelligence. As before it is important to bear in mind that intelligence or lack thereof does not imply a lack of sentience, but if we can demonstrate that a creature is intelligent it does go a long way towards establishing sentience. But we should perhaps bear in mind that animal intelligence is not comparable to our own, even though when the presence of intelligence is researched in animals it does seem as though we try to prove animals have similar intelligence rather than demonstrate that animals have perhaps a different kind of intelligence. A degree of intelligence of some type does of course demonstrate sentience, but is nonetheless not a prerequisite.

A number of research projects have demonstrated that despite having small brains fish have cognitive abilities in advance of some mammals. These studies also reveal that fish are fast learners, they can retain what they have learned and they can make mental maps. The following is an extract from The Telegraph concerning research into the intelligence of fish:

“Tests on fish in aquaria at Oxford University have shown that despite their tiny brains, they possess cognitive abilities outstripping those of some small mammals.

Dr Theresa Burt de Perera made the discovery using blind Mexican cave fish, which rely on subtle changes in pressure to detect the presence of objects around them.

“In experiments, Dr Burt de Perera found that the fish did more than merely avoid bumping into objects in their tank. They built a detailed map of their surroundings, memorising the obstacles in them within a few hours. Once stored in their brains, the fish used their “mental map” to spot changes in the obstacles around them – a feat that defeats hamsters.

In one test, involving obstacles arranged in a specific order, the fish proved capable of memorising the order and quickly spotted when Dr Burt de Perera swapped obstacles around.”

To finish reading the article:
Fast-learning fish have memories that put their owners to shame

Moreover concerning the amazing ability that fish have to make mental maps, it has been shown that fish retain this memory for about 40 days. In his book Pleasurable Kingdoms Jonathan Balcombe describes the incredible memory of the frillfin goby which lives in rook tide-pools when the tide is high:

“If a rock pool begins to dry up these fish leap to an adjacent pool. Obviously, a missed leap might be fatal, and the accuracy must be great in both terms of distance and direction. How do frillfin gobies do this being as they cannot see the adjacent pool? They memorise the topography of the rocks during high tide. Captive fish showed a marked improvement in orientation after an overnight opportunity to swim over the pools during an artificial high tide. Removing the gobies from their home tide pools for various periods of time before retesting their jumping ability showed that their memory of familiar pools lasted about 40 days. Thanks to these mental capacities, gobies caught in a shallow depression avoid having to make a pure leap of faith.”

Fish have the ability to learn by observing other fish:

“Did you know that fish can learn to avoid nets by watching other fish in their group and that they can recognize individual “shoal mates”? Some fish gather information by eavesdropping on others, and some—such as the South African fish who lay eggs on leaves so that they can carry them to a safe place—even use tools.”

Even more amazing:

“Australian crimson spotted rainbow fish, which learnt to escape from a net in their tank, remembered how they did it 11 months later. This is equivalent to a human recalling a lesson learnt 40 years ago.”
Culum Brown University of Edinburgh

Fish communicate with each other:

“Researchers from universities across America have published research showing that some fish use sound to communicate distress when nets are dipped into their tanks or they are otherwise threatened. In a separate study, researcher William Tavolga found that fish grunted when they received an electric shock. In addition, the fish began to grunt as soon as they saw the electrode, clearly in anticipation of the torment that Tavolga was inflicting on them.

Fish talk to each other with squeaks, squeals, and other low-frequency sounds that humans can hear only with special instruments.

Some fish woo potential partners by singing to them, but male sand gobies, tiny fish who live along the European coast, play “Mr. Mom,” building and guarding nests and fanning the eggs with their fins to create a current of fresh, oxygenated water.”

Extracts from  The Hidden Lives Of Fish.

Fish have friends:

Porcupine Fish Won’t Leave Stuck Friend’s Side | This little fish’s friend was stuck in a net — so she stayed right by her side till she was finally free

Can fish use tools? Maybe not in the sense we would use tools but consider the following:

One species of wrasse, has been filmed engaging in a marine version of tool use.

“While diving off the Micronesian archipelago of Pulau, evolutionary biologist Giacomo Bernardi witnessed something unusual and was lucky enough to capture it on film. An orange-dotted tuskfish (Choerodon anchorago) uncovered a clam buried in the sand by blowing water at it, picked up the mollusk in its mouth and carried it to a large rock 30 yards away. Then, using several rapid head flicks and well-timed releases, the fish eventually cracked open the clam against the rock. In the ensuing 20 minutes, the tuskfish ate three clams, using the same sequence of behaviors to smash them.”

“In May 2014 a study highlighted an example of innovative tool use by Atlantic cods being held in captivity for aquaculture research. Each fish wore a colored tag affixed to its back near the dorsal fin, which allowed the researchers to identify each individual fish. The holding tank had a self-feeder activated by a string with a loop at the end, and the fish soon learned they could release a morsel of food by grabbing the loop in their mouth and pulling on it.

Apparently, some of the cods discovered they could activate the feeder by hooking the loop onto their tag and swimming a short distance away. These clever cods honed their technique through hundreds of “tests”—and it became a finely tuned series of goal-directed, coordinated movements. It also demonstrated true refinement because the innovators were able to grab the pellet a fraction of a second faster than by using their mouth to get the food. That fishes are routinely expected to interact with a foreign device to feed themselves is impressive enough but that some devised a new way of using their tag, in this case, shows a fish’s capacity for flexibility and originality.”

Continue reading:

Tusk Fish using rock to crack clam!

Multitasking? Yes indeed fish are very adept at this, an ability the eludes me.

“First came news that fish feel pain, then research showed they’re smarter than you might think …. now a new study shows they’re good at multi-tasking too. University of Edinburgh biologists have found that when fish are vulnerable to attack, they become more adept at concentrating on tasks simultaneously. Experiments with a species of fish similar to guppies have shown that fish from high-risk environments identified predators with their left eyes and shoal mates with their right eyes. The research is significant because it appears to explain why humans have developed the ability to use different sides of the brain for specific tasks. The findings, which succeed earlier Edinburgh research on fish pain and intelligence, are published online today (21 July) in the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters.”

“Dr Culum Brown, of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology, said: “Our study suggests that lateralisation allows fish to concentrate on shoal mates and predators simultaneously. Put another way, you could say that fish are very good at multi-tasking. In fish, all information received by the left eye is transmitted to the right side of the brain, and vice versa. Lateralisation is rather like having two computers to process information in different parts of the brain simultaneously, rather than just one.”

To finish reading the article:

Scientific study shows fish make great multi-taskers

Fish are individuals

Many people perceive fish as all being the same both in appearance and behaviour, creatures of habit, automatons with no distinguishing characteristics. In my view this is yet another inaccurate observation and one which scientists are in the process of disproving as research validates that fish are individuals with their own personalities and behaviours. Below is an extract from a Times on-line article, which unfortunately is now not available without registration, by Mark Henderson, Smart School of Fish Expose Stupidity of a Popular Myth, which features a study led by Lynne Sneddon of the University of Liverpool conducting research into the intelligence of fish. The finding of which not only demonstrate that fish are smarter than we think but they have good memories and are individuals .

“The study… found that individual trout display very different characters — some are bold and inquisitive; others are shy and passive.”

“Rainbow trout certainly have contrasting personalities. Some are bold and some are shy. The bold fish take risks, they are quick to learn, more aggressive and active. Shy fish are cautious and timid, and spend more time under cover.

“They also learn from their experiences: they adjust their behaviour according to what they pick up from others.”

In the study, which is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, Dr Sneddon’s team first watched rainbow trout as they were exposed to new and unfamiliar stimuli in the form of shapes made of Lego dropped into their tanks. Fish were then categorised as bold or shy, depending on how quickly they investigated the objects, and how closely they approached them.”

Smart school of fish expose stupidity of a popular myth

Fish have the capacity to feel pleasure.
Sentient beings are capable of experiencing pleasure. Most people would not equate fish as creatures with the ability to enjoy themselves and experience pleasure, again another misconception. Here are some examples of the ways that fish experience pleasure.

All animals like to be stroked, cat and dog owners know the pleasure their animals derive from being stroked and indeed the pleasure we derive from stroking them. Fish it seems also enjoy the sensation of being stroked. Contrary to popular belief fish are highly sensitive to touch, equipped with sensory organs they can detect pressure changes in the water and minute electrical fields.

Grooming by such creatures as cleaner shrimp and cleaner fish is likely undertaken for the pleasure of the tactile sensations involved in addition to the benefits of grooming.

The use of cleaning stations, a place where fish and other aquatic animals gather to be cleaned by fish of several species and other creatures, is a widespread phenomenon. The cleaner fish or other creatures nibble parasites such as fish lice, fungal growth, loose skin and other irritations from the skin.

Yes most certainly fish like to be touched, they have been observed to rub against one another. Fish even enjoy the sensations of touch by humans and fish who are used to divers often allow themselves to be stroked by them. There appears to be no advantage here, such as food or other benefit, other than pleasure from the sensory sensation.

Do fish seek out pleasure, do they play?

Quite likely the answer is yes. Again in his book pleasurable Kingdom, Jonathan Balcombe writing about fish and their capacity for play describes Zoologist E Meder observations of elephantine fish in an aquarium :

“After witnessing surprising things going on in his aquarium the Zoologist E Meder moved it to his desk so that he could keep a closer eye on his lone elephantine fish. One day to his astonishment, Meder watched the fish balancing a small aquatic snail on his or her nose. (Meder never determined or divulged the fishes’ sex). Small nylon balls added to the tank were treated similarly. When these began to accumulate in the filter, Meder suspended one on a string, and the fish would bat balance and retrieve the ball. That this fish was kept alone suggests that the play-like behaviour may have been driven in part by boredom.”

Surgeonfish in at a zoo in the USA were observed to gulp in air at the surface of their tank, swim to the bottom release the air and chase the bubbles to the surface. There is admittedly not a lot of evidence that fish play other than anecdotal, but there are numerous indications that they do. Most of us have seen fish repeatedly leaping out of the water, we may conjecturally imply that this is some form of play as it serves no other perceivable purpose.

Curiosity? Are fish curious?

A curious creature is aware is he not, it is his awareness, his consciousness that sparks his curiosity. Curiosity is a sign that a creature is sentient. But are fish curious? Fish are known to investigate unusual objects in their environment. Children paddling in fresh water often experience first hand the curiosity of little fish who nibble at their legs.

Watch the following as this little fish follows this person’s finger, curiosity surely.

Capacity to feel pain?

Last but most certainly not least: fish feel pain. As with all animals the most basic indication of sentience is the ability to feel pain and fish like all animals are capable of experiencing pain.

Without sentience there can be no pain, pain is felt, it is experienced by a creature who is aware, the animal has to be aware, conscious in order to feel the painful sensation and to recognise it as painful and thereafter to avoid a recurrence of the painful stimuli. So if we can establish that fish feel pain we are well on the way to validating the concept that fish are sentient.

Every creature feels pain, without pain no creature would survive for very long, pain is a basic survival mechanism. To my mind it is common sense that fish like all animals feel pain. Fish have the ability to feel pain just the way that your cat or dog does or indeed you yourself.

“The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.”
Dr. Donald Broom

Fish have a nervous system, this is a fact long known by neurobiologists; they like us have a brain and nerves that sense pain in much the same way as we do. The brains and nervous systems of fish are very like our own. In fact fish have endorphin like neurotransmitters, opiate like painkillers, which act just as they do in humans and other animals, and that is to relieve pain. This is their only function, they are natures pain killers, they exist in fish as they do in ourselves in order to relieve pain. Scientists have mapped pain receptors all over thier bodies including thier mouths, the obvious conclusion is fish feel pain. Yes anglers, even in their mouths, a hook in this sensitive area is rather like having your teeth drilled in exposed areas without an anaesthetic!

Below is an article of which the angler should take special note before catching a fish on a barbed hook.

Research challenges the myth among anglers that fish can’t feel pain from barbed hooks.
by Victoria Braithwaite

“Every year, sportsmen around the world drag millions of fish to shore on barbed hooks. It’s something people have always done, and with little enough conscience. Fish are … well, fish. They’re not dogs, who yelp when you accidentally step on their feet. Fish don’t cry out or look sad or respond in a particularly recognizable way. So we feel free to treat them in a way that we would not treat mammals or even birds.

But is there really any biological justification for exempting fish from the standards nowadays accorded to so-called higher animals? Do we really know whether fish feel pain or whether they suffer — or whether, in fact, our gut sense that they are dumb, unfeeling animals is accurate?

Determining whether any type of animal really suffers is difficult. A good starting place might be to consider how people feel pain. When a sharp object pierces the human body, specialized nerve endings called nociceptors alert us to the damage. Incredibly, no one ever seems to have asked before whether fish have nociceptors around their mouths. My colleagues and I in Edinburgh, Scotland, recently looked in trout and found that they do. If you look at thin sections of the trigeminal nerve, the main nerve for the face for all vertebrates, fish have the same two types of nociceptors that we do — A-delta and C fibers. So they do have the necessary sensory wiring to detect pain.

And the wiring works. We stimulated the nociceptors by injecting diluted vinegar or bee venom just under the skin of the trout. If you’ve ever felt the nip of vinegar on an open cut or the sting of a bee, you will recognize these feelings as painful. Well, fish find these naturally irritating chemicals unpleasant too. Their gills beat faster, and they rub the affected area on the walls of their tank, lose interest in food and have problems making decisions.”

Finish reading the complete article

That Fish You Caught Was in Pain:

This is an excellent article and raises important ethical questions. In response though to the posed consideration near the conclusion of this essay that: “One could reasonably adopt a utilitarian cost-benefit approach and argue that the benefits of sport-fishing, both financial and recreational, may outweigh the ethical costs of the likely suffering of fish.”

In my view there is nothing that can outweigh the cost of suffering to another creature, most certainly not financial or recreational. There are numerous out door pleasurable pursuits which cause harm to no creature, for instance bird watching and walking. There is nothing more exhilarating than walking in natural surroundings and observing nature and the great variety of life both on land and in the water, surely to experience nature and her creatures as live animate beings, must be a more satisfying experience, rather than fishing – viewing the demise of another living being after struggling for his last gasp of air, in pain, on the end of an anglers barbed hook!

“Really, it’s kind of a moral question. Is your angling more important than the pain to the fish?”
Dr. Lynne Sneddon,

Fish also experience emotional distress in response to pain and have been observed to engage in a rocking motion after experiencing pain. This type of motion is very similar to that seen in other animals including ourselves. People with mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders may rock backwards and forwards in response to stress. Likewise people with autism rock backwards and forwards a behaviour referred to as stimming, it is thought that such behaviours are engaged in as a method of relieving anxiety and stress. Fish, as we have previously discussed, have good memories and can suffer from the anticipation of pain.

For more informative information on the issue of the perception of pain in fish from which some of the information in the preceding three paragraphs was obtained please click:

Fish Feel Pain

For scientific evidence read about recent research by scientists from the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh:
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Fish do feel pain, scientists say

Often cruelty to fish is not considered due to the misconception that fish do not feel pain, that they are not sentient, and most bizarre of all, that they are not animals despite the fact that most people have had at least basic biology taught to them at school. Trying to change the way people think about farmed land animals is difficult enough but when it comes to fish the task is even more problematic. Fish and other aquatic creatures need to be treated with the same consideration as other sentient beings such as your dog or cat or your budgie. Birds of course and in particular poultry are often considered in the light of similar misconceptions.

Read more about the common misconceptions concerning fish and the abuse that they sufferer as the are dragged from their watery environment.

Animal Rights: Aquatic Animals

Related Links

Some horrifying statistics concerning the immense loss of life of fish both in the wild and in fish farms

Fish Count estimates

The Hidden Lives of Fish