Animal rights and the wrong prey

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The Independent Online

So this week some animal rights group has posted the names, addresses and telephone numbers of various celebrities who fish or hunt. Inciting their members to, no doubt, do something really big and intelligent like starting a conversation that puts their point of view across in a calm, considered manner.

So this week some animal rights group has posted the names, addresses and telephone numbers of various celebrities who fish or hunt. Inciting their members to, no doubt, do something really big and intelligent like starting a conversation that puts their point of view across in a calm, considered manner.

Extreme animal rights people really frustrate me. Just as much as huntin', shootin' and fishin' people who won't listen to anyone else's point of view do, too. If only the two would get together and start a new sport, they could chase each other up and down the countryside with nothing more harmful than a rolled-up newspaper in each fury-clenched fist. That way, no furry or finny animals would get hurt and the hunting (and shooting and fishing) extremists would have their sport.

I've sat next to both sorts at dinners. Both times the lack of humility and the breadth of ignorance have astounded me.

I've fished with some remarkable men and women who fish, for sport, but also have done more to conserve fish stocks than any "animal-lover" I've ever met. But I've also fished with some men who care nothing for sport. They fish because they can feel big and proud for having "dominated" a fish, tamed nature.

As if! They fish with inappropriate and utterly unfair bait (sorry but it's not hard to catch a salmon in a holding pool below a weir with a shrimp on the hook as a very famous person I know does, frequently). They don't kill fish properly, if at all, leaving them to flap around at their feet. Spoils indeed.

But what I have always wondered at is why animal rights people lobby the individual angler. If they really knew anything about fish, they would know that this is a complete waste of energy. Most of them don't actually catch that many fish. Why don't they target the trawlers - the real enemies of fish?

Or is it because the unnecessary killing of thousands and thousands of juvenile and/or endangered fish just doesn't sound somehow as dramatic or "romantic" as the one-man-and-his-fish scenario? Does the decimation of an entire species not count as "animal rights"?

We currently have a situation at sea whereby Russian trawlers fishing for mackerel also catch juvenile salmon (smolts). If they lowered their nets by just a few metres they could avoid the smolts, which are "useless" to them but are, literally, the future of the Atlantic salmon. But so far they won't. The EU spends a billion pounds a year on the Common Fisheries Policy and half of that goes to Spain to spend on bigger and "better" trawlers so that they can fish more and more indiscriminately. Remember, the fish they don't want often end up back in the sea, only dead.

Instead of publishing lists of celebrities who fish and hunt and shoot, why not publish a list of the supermarkets which still insist on stocking North Sea cod, or caviar, or swordfish from the Indian Ocean, or farmed salmon?

Perhaps that involves too much research. Perhaps it's a bit too much love to show an animal to understand the difference between cod from the North-east Atlantic and those from the North Sea (the former is sustainable, the latter not); or the difference between warm and cold-water prawns; or come to that, farmed and wild warm-water prawns (trawling for the former accounts for a third of the world's total by-catch of unwanted fish).

Or to know that Chilean seabass is in fact Antarctic seabass which is in fact Patagonian toothfish, which is close to extinction by any name? So much easier to publish a list of celebrity names and addresses and encourage fire-bombing their homes. Best make sure they don't have pets in the house at the time though, eh?

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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