The argument against eating fish

fish sentience
fresh fish caught with fishing net

Many people who have given up meat will still eat fish. Why is this?

Well, there are a number of reasons.


Not everyone believes that eating fish is unhealthy for them in the same way that meat, eggs and dairy are. However, although fish can be a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, they can also contain several substances that are harmful to human health, the worst of which is saturated fat. Additionally, cholesterol, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and mercury round out some of the other harmful substances that can be found in seafood. And the great news here is that we can get omega-3 fatty acids from a variety of plant-based sources, such as chia seeds and flax, without also ingesting all those damaging substances


Not everyone believes that fish are intelligent or that they can experience pain.

It can be hard for us to imagine what a fish’s internal experience or perception might be like because they are so different from us, always in another element, silent and – to our eyes – inexpressive. They don’t purr like cats or wag their tails emphatically the way dogs do, and they don’t cluck, bleat or squeal in terror the way a chicken, sheep, or pig-headed for slaughter might. When we witness the suffering of a land animal, we see an emotional being we can relate to and we are inclined to feel compassion, but we don’t tend to have the same emotional response when we see a fish in distress. But that does not mean the fish isn’t suffering.

Fish Deserve our Compassion

In response to substantial evidence gathered over the past 15 years, fish biologists around the world now accept that fish do feel conscious pain, just like mammals and birds do.

As with cats and dogs, we may never discover whether or not fish feel pain in exactly the same way we do, and yet there are parts of ourselves that we can recognize in fish – spines, pain receptors, endorphins and all of the familiar pain reflexes – and these are the similarities that matter. Fish have the ability to feel pleasure and the ability to suffer, and so they ultimately deserve our compassion.

In his bestselling book ‘Eating Animals’, Jonathan Safran Foer asks some very important questions about the morality of eating fish:

“Is the suffering of a drawn-out death something that is cruel to inflict on any animal that can experience it, or just some animals? Just how distant are fish from us in the scheme of life? Is it a chasm or a tree that defines the distance? If we were to one day encounter a form of life more powerful and intelligent than our own and it regarded us as we regard fish, what would our argument be against being eaten?
The lives of billions of animals a year and the health of the largest ecosystem on our planet [our oceans] hang on the thinly reasoned answers we give to these questions.”

And this brings me to another very important reason why we should eliminate fish and shellfish from our diets.

Ocean Conservation

Kendall Jones, a research scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, has stated that fishing, as well as run-off waste and chemicals from industrial farms, are the two most significant ways in which humans are negatively impacting ocean ecosystems. These harmful activities coupled with the influx of plastic pollution (46 percent of which comes from fishing nets) are disrupting ocean life and, in turn, depleting ocean resources. As a result, just 13% of the world’s oceans remain untouched by the damaging impacts of humanity.

The situation is very serious, and it’s not somebody else’s responsibility to deal with it.

It’s ours.

Save our Ocean Ecosystems

Those who supply our insatiable demand for fish haul up to 2,700 trillion animals from the ocean each year by means that are incredibly damaging to all forms of ocean life.

Almost all of the fish we eat today comes to us by way of longlining, beam or bottom trawling. Whilst subjecting fish to a slow and distressing death, usually by suffocation, the indiscriminate nature of these modern fishing techniques means that hundreds of other species are also inadvertently killed in the process.

Today, for every 10 tuna, sharks and other large predatory fish that were in our oceans 50 to 100 years ago, only one is left and that’s because of our intense efforts to thoughtlessly catch, kill and eat trillions of sea creatures. If we continue doing what we’re doing, scientists predict that every species of wild fish —from tuna to sardines— will collapse by the year 2050.

In short, we are literally eating away at our oceans.

Do the Right Thing

Don’t let your compassion for others and environmental concerns end where your appetite begins. You can help to conserve our ocean ecosystems and reduce suffering by eliminating fish from your diet.

Ocean expert Captain Paul Watson, the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and proud supporter of Million Dollar Vegan, states:

“The ocean needs action, not talk. People need to stop eating fish… to be educated that our very survival as a species depends 100 percent on a healthy ocean and that when the ocean dies, we all die – every single one of us.”

It’s time to act

Go vegan today, for the sake of fish and our oceans. Our free Vegan Starter Kit will help you help fish and protect our oceans.

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