Do fish feel pain?


Do fish feel pain?


No, fish feel no pain. Fish operate on brainstem and spinal cord functions only. It’s
different for us humans. Human existence is dominated by massively developed
brain hemispheres. In addition, cold blooded animals such as fish, snakes,
lizards, and frogs have simpler brains than warm-blooded vertebrates, such as
birds and mammals. Fish have the simplest type of brain of any vertebrate,
while we humans, have the most complex brains of any species. Fish lack the
structural elements, called the neocortex, necessary to feel pain. So keep
pulling those trout in !

The brain of a fish is like a Model T Ford, simple but efficient and has very
limited capabilities. The brain of a human is like a modern luxury car with
electronic fuel injection, powerful engine, climate control, emission controls,
all wheel drive, state-of-the-art sound system, and computerized monitoring

Pain is actually a useful survival tool. It is a twofold experience. First, there is
the process of our nerves communicating with the brain. Second, there is the
response to the pain, and this response varies from person to person.

Say a  person touches a hot stove burner.Nerve impulses travel to the brain, registers the burn, and the brain tells thearm to do a quick retraction. The pain is telling our body to react, lest there is tissue damage.

Our brain is big enough to record that negative emotional  reaction and to store a memory of the unpleasant experience. That is why most kids will touch a hot stove only once. Fishhave no such capability.

Some people may argue that fish feel pain because they see the fish flopping
about  on the fishing line or trashing about in the boat or on shore after being pulled in.  But that response is no different than being pursued by a predator or being startled by a vibration in the water.

Don’t feel sorry for fish. What about the poor lobster? They look rather wretched swimming around in those desolate grocery store tanks, their pincers banded together.

Little do they know that in a matter of hours or days, they will be thrown into a pot of steaming water and boiled alive. That whistling steam escaping from their shells is really imitating  a final goodbye scream.

Find similar questions and answers in my new book,  Ask Your Science Teacher. 409 pages. A delightful read. Email me for a copy $12  postage paid.

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2 Responses to Do fish feel pain?

  1. Mike says:

    The convenient (for anglers) notion that fish do not feel pain has been overtaken by science in the last few years. For example, here are two quotes from the 2010 book “Do fish feel pain?” by Marine Biologist Dr Victoria Braithwaite.

    p152, “I believe that the weight of evidence now shows fish do feel pain”.

    p183, “The experiments and results presented in the first part of the book provide enough evidence to answer the question posed in the title—‘Do fish feel pain?’ Yes, they do.”

    Seems to me the ideas expressed in Scheckel’s piece are dead wrong.

    • I did check several sources, both print material and on-line, and the majority of opinion was that the central nervous system of fish is so primitive, that fish do not suffer pain in the way we humans think of pain.
      larry scheckel

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