On 12 November 2019, nine Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across the political spectrum opened an exhibition on fish and their wonderful world. The MEPs also got into a fishing net, putting themselves in the place of the billions, trillions of fish killed each year!
Fish are intelligent and emotional creatures. They communicate. Many have intricate courtship rituals. Some form alliances and cross-species partnerships. Some use tools. Some have extraordinary memories. Some will deceive others to get what they want.
Fish are also sensitive beings. We can’t hear their joy, happiness, fear or pain – but they do have feelings. Like mammals, fish have pain receptors and a very similar nervous system. When fish are caught, we see them silently thrashing and gasping as they slowly asphyxiate, out of the water they need to breathe. Yet we don’t hear them cry or scream, so it’s easy for us to dismiss their torments.
Between 800 billion and 3 trillion fish are killed each year. And, in the case of farmed fish, such as trout, sea bass, sea bream and carp, death is likely to follow a barren, confined existence in an underwater factory farm.
Fish deserve to have the same level of protection in law as any other vertebrate. We are calling on the EU to better protect fish, as the current farm animal welfare legislation does not offer sufficient protection for these creatures.
MEP Francisco Guerreiro (Greens/EFA, Portugal) said: “Current EU legislation protecting fish is vague, insufficient and not enforced or sanctioning. Fish welfare needs to be properly regulated."
MEP Tilly Metz (Greens/EFA, Luxembourg) said: “Fish communicate, have a memory, may solve problems using tools and cooperate with mates and other species: so stop underestimating them!"
MEP Sylwia Spurek (S&D, Poland) said: “When I was a child, adults used to say to children: children and fish have no voice. This way they denied children and fish had rights.”
MEPs Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL, the Netherlands): “Fish deserve as much protection as the feathery and furry animals. They too can suffer. They too feel pain and distress. And they too want to live in a suitable and clean environment.”
MEP Pascal Durand (Renew Europe, France) said: “Modern fishing practices are known to have a terrible impact on the environment, but we often forget the impact on the animals themselves.”
MEP Catherine Rowett (Greens/EFA, the United Kingdom): “The more voiceless and vulnerable our fellow creatures are, the more they need our protection.”
MEP Eleonora Evi (NI, Italy) said: “Every day science gives us a better understanding of the intricate and fascinating world of fish.”
MEP Caroline Roose (Greens/EFA, France): “I would like to denounce a new, fashionable sport, which consists of capturing an animal, piercing a hole in its mouth, and then throwing it back to the water. […] Today, we have fun while torturing animals and we don’t talk enough about this.”
On the following day, twelve members of the Greens/EFA group in the EU Parliament came to visit the exhibit, and some MEPs gave hugs, kisses and chin rubs to our 3D fish!