Fish can feel pain in similar way to humans, study concludes

Research shows fish exhibit symptoms such as hyper-ventilating and behavioural changes

Conrad Duncan
Friday 22 November 2019 12:19
Comments
Dr Lynne Sheddon said the research had 'important implications' for how the animals are treated by humans
Dr Lynne Sheddon said the research had 'important implications' for how the animals are treated by humans

Fish feel pain in a way that is similar to how humans experience it, according to a leading scientist in aquatic animal biology.

A study led by Dr Lynne Sneddon, an expert in animal biology, showed that fish can exhibit symptoms such as hyper-ventilating and long-term behavioural changes after a painful experience.

Dr Sneddon, who is the director of bio-veterinary science at the University of Liverpool, said the results have “important implications" for how humans treat the animals.

Scientists reviewed 98 studies on fish pain to come to the conclusion that the animals do feel pain in a comparable way to mammals.

Pain in fish is a contentious issue, with some claiming that the animals’ nervous systems are not complex enough to perceive pain in a meaningful way.

“When subject to a potentially painful event fishes show adverse changes in behaviour such as suspension of feeding and reduced activity, which are prevented when a pain-relieving drug is provided,” Dr Sneddon said.

She added: “When the fish’s lips are given a painful stimulus they rub the mouth against the side of the tank much like we rub our toe when we stub it.

“If we accept fish experience pain, then this has important implications for how we treat them.”

Dr Sneddon said that steps should be taken to make sure fish are “humanely caught and killed” and the animals should be handled with care to avoid damaging them.

Although painful experiences are unpleasant, the feeling is an important survival tool for teaching animals to avoid injury.

"If fishes had no pain system then they would just go round damaging themselves,” Dr Sneddon told Newsweek.

However, a review by the University of Wyoming in 2013 concluded that fish were unlikely to feel pain, as they do not have a highly-developed neocortex needed to feel pain in their brains.

The University of Liverpool's paper was part of a series called “Evolution of mechanisms and behaviour important for pain” for the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in