Gone Fishin` — Guilt-Free

My sun-toasted toddler sits on a weathered dock,
clutching her pink Barbie fishing pole with grown-up
gravitas. Her pigtails bounce as she dangles her bare
feet above the deep emerald lake, where her cherry
red-and-white bobber waltzes in sync. She takes a swig
from her tyke-sized Dannon bottled water and waits for
the bluegill to strike.

"Where are they?" she asks impatiently, her face as
taut as her 2-pound test line.

Below, the feeding frenzy has begun. Tiny predators
strike at the night crawler doubled over on my
daughter`s hook. The bobber goes under. My little fisher
bolts up from her summer repose and reels in her prize:
a beautiful bluegill sunfish no larger than the size of
my palm. We admire its markings and spiny dorsal fin,
then carefully unhook and release the catch back into
its warm, watery domain.  

"Bye-bye! Go back to your mama and dada and get
commands my budding little conservationist.
"Now, can I have another yucky worm, please? Let`s do it

I can think of few things more idyllic, intimate and
wholesome than introducing a young child to fish
responsibly. But animal-rights activists consider my
daughter and me, and millions of other recreational
fishers like us, immoral barbarians for practicing
catch-and-release. The latest anti-fishing attack
centers on new research purporting to show that fish
feel pain when hooked.

According to Lynne Sneddon, a scientist at the Roslin
Institute in Edinburgh, she has confirmed, for the first
time, the

"existence of nervous system receptors in the head of
fish that respond to `damaging stimuli.`"
In a
study that seems far more cruel and unusual than
anything my daughter and I have ever done to our
neighborhood sunfish, Sneddon injected bee venom and
acetic acid into the lips of captive rainbow trout. 

Sneddon and her colleagues interpreted the injected
trout`s refusal to eat and rubbing against tank walls as
unequivocal signs of human-like emotional suffering.
Maybe they just, um, wanted to get out of their barbaric
aquatic cages and get back to their mamas and dadas? In
all seriousness, many other scientists counter that fish
are neurologically incapable of processing feelings.
Fish, unlike higher and more well-developed primates,
completely lack a neocortex, which produces an awareness
of pain. 

If little Nemo isn`t cognizant of suffering, how can
you claim he suffers? Or, as University of Wyoming
scientist James Rose

it in his own recently published study on fish
and pain: "We know enough about consciousness to know
that fish don`t have the hardware"
to feel it.

Sneddon`s true agenda has less to do with
establishing neuroscientific truths than with stoking
fishers` guilt — and ultimately undermining the entire
sport. "Really, it`s kind of a moral question,"
Sneddon sniffed after the publication of her research. "Is
your angling more important than the pain of fish?"

Radical groups such as PETA have taken this

"Fishing Hurts"
campaign to ugly extremes.
Anti-fishing activists in America and Europe have
intimidated researchers, dispatched topless
demonstrators dressed as menacing mermaids to upset
children`s fishing programs, and thrown rocks at and
sent scuba divers to scare fish away from angling
waters. They`ve even tried to bully the Boy Scouts of
America into dropping their traditional fishing merit

"We seek to shift the ways animals are viewed,
from being a resource to be exploited to that of the
community of individuals that they are,"
PETA`s Dawn
Carr sanctimoniously explained

a few years ago.

The ironic catch in protesting catch-and-release is
that these environmental zealots are attacking a humane
and responsible practice that allows large numbers of
families to fish for sport without depleting precious
resources in rivers and lakes. Anglers are among the
most dedicated stewards of the environment. It`s in our
natural self-interest to ensure healthy, thriving fish
stocks for generations to come. Fishing license fees
contribute millions of dollars every year to fund
ecological and fishery management programs nationwide.

So let the PETA types empty their Kleenex boxes while
their scientific sympathizers torture some poor fish in
a lab to prove an irrelevant point. My daughter and I
are going to soak up the sun, enjoy our lakeside views
and go fishing — geared up and guilt-free.

Michelle Malkin [email
her] is author of

Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists,
Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores

for Peter Brimelow`s review. Click

for Michelle Malkin`s website.