Schools targeted by 'pro-fish' documentary

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FISH liberation activists hope the world premiere of a video depicting the slow, brutal beheading of an eel will mark a great leap forward in the most difficult waters negotiated by campaigners against 'cruelty' to animals.

The Campaign for the Abolition of Angling will release The Neglected Blood Sport next week confident that sympathetic school teachers will assure the 20-minute colour documentary a wide and impressionable audience.

But anglers, by far the largest group of 'blood' sportsmen, have deplored the video. Representatives of 3 million British anglers yesterday criticised their opponent's new focus on children and said they would oppose piscine propaganda in schools.

The campaign claims the video is the world's first pro-fish documentary. 'It gets people to consider how they think about fish,' Marianne MacDonald, secretary of the campaign, said. 'Fish are vertebrates, just like dogs. People wouldn't hook a dog and drag it underwater, would they?

'The aim is to wake people up, rather than show scenes of graphic violence, but it does show what happens to an eel caught on a sea angling trip. It takes ages to unhook the eel and the anglers finally saw its head off.'

The campaign is opposed to all forms of fishing and its members look forward to casting a more restrictive net over rivers and lakes.

'This is our first really professional campaign,' Ms MacDonald said. 'We have been making progress during the last few years. There are now some bans and restrictions on things like keep nets and the use of live bait.

'There has been a lot of interest already in the film from teachers in primary and secondary schools. Children are a lot more open-minded, and the video will show how fish are stressed, confused, damaged and left open to infection even when thrown back

'The Liberal Democrats have now begun to incorporate restrictions on live bait and barbed hooks in their policies for animal welfare.' But even Labour's most politically correct local councillors have not dared to ban anglers from council-owned waters.

'The anti-angling campaign has had very little impact,' Peter Maskell, news editor of Angling Times, said. 'One or two councillors have tried to ban the sport, but most anglers are tabloid-reading Labour voters and the idea has been outvoted. Some of the campaigning has been outrageous, with attempts to provoke violence and superglue the locks of tackle shops. By far the biggest threat to angling is pollution.

'Anglers are aware fish are finite and in the last 20 years there have been many improvements to prevent fish being harmed.'

Carp fishers, the big game hunters of angling, are especially sensitive to accusations of cruelty. Mary Paisley, of Carp World, said the campaign was 'very silly'.

Anglers land big fish on special un-hooking mats. 'They are little air beds for the fish to lie on while we take the hook out. Then you fold the bed like an envelope to cradle the fish as you take it back to the water. They treat the fish better than children.'

The premiere of The Neglected Blood Sport will be held in Birmingham tomorrow at the shop run by Animal Defenders. The shop is on Bull Street.