Debate continues over whether fish can feel pain. Why?

I think this debate only continues because of the lack of understanding, and that some people are choosing not to understand the evidence.

Fish are sentient beings, they feel pain, are intelligent and are capable of learning. They tick all the boxes necessary.

Begin forwarded message:

From: “Dr. David Scarfe”
Date: 22 December 2014 23:59:06 AWST
Subject: AquaVetMed e-News: Debate continues over whether fish can feel pain

December 22, 2014
Debate continues over whether fish feel pain

Do fish feel pain? Can they suffer? Historically, the opinion on both counts has been that they don’t, but these views are rapidly evolving as scientific evidence expands.

That fish respond to injurious stimuli unconsciously and aren’t actually aware of pain is a view championed most notably by James Rose, PhD, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of Wyoming. In a 2014 article titled “Can fish really feel pain?” published by the journal Fish and Fisheries, Dr. Rose concludes that research suggesting fish are conscious of pain is unsubstantiated and lacks adequate empirical support.

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing animal food–producing sector in the world. The traditional view is fish aren’t conscious of pain and, therefore, are unable to suffer. Research showing otherwise is gaining traction within the veterinary and scientific communities, however. He writes in favor of function- and nature-based welfare standards predicated on objective indicators of fish well-being “rather than a feelings-based standard that is highly speculative and scientifically unsubstantiated.” In contrast, the veterinary and scientific communities are increasingly warming to the possibility that pain for some fish species is a more noxious experience than an unconscious, knee-jerk response.

Concerning fish, the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals state: “Considerable evidence is accumulating suggesting it is appropriate to consider the possibility of pain perception in these species.” The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research in 2009 devoted an entire journal issue to the matter because, as Dr. Lysa Pam Posner explained, of the “growing acceptance in the scientific community that fish neuroanatomy and behavioral responses reveal that these animals feel pain. It would then be logical to conclude that an animal that can feel pain can also experience distress. It is likely that humans will never fully know the extent to which fish feel pain, but acknowledging that they do raises the likelihood that fish will receive the humane treatment increasingly provided to vertebrates,” wrote Dr. Posner, an associate professor of veterinary anesthesiology at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The issue was one of several explored at the AVMA animal welfare symposium titled Humane Endings. The meeting was held Nov. 3-5, 2014, in suburban Chicago. Best practices for euthanasia were discussed and research aimed at refining humane killing methods was examined for the purpose of ever-refining the AVMA euthanasia guidelines. Dr. Roy Yanong, a professor and extension veterinarian with the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory at the University of Florida, explained at a symposium presentation how developing euthanasia recommendations for fish is especially challenging, considering … … .

See the full JAVMA News story at For a related JAVMA News story on the “Humane Endings” Symposium, go to For additional information see
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