Animal Magic

Who Started the Myth that Fish can’t Feel?

Who started the myth that fish can’t feel?

It’s one of the cruellest myths yet invented by man.  And we swallow it hook line and sinker!  It has prevailed for so long simply because we want it to. But it is a myth and it’s quite wrong.

Just because a fish is cold-blooded it doesn’t mean that it can’t feel. Fish are cold- blooded because they have had to adapt to the temperature of the water in which they live.

Of course fish can feel. They have brains and well-developed nervous systems.  They have blood like all other animals.  There are even some fish that scream when you hook them out of the water.  But mostly they suffer in silence and so we assume that they don’t feel!

Not only do fish feel physical pain.  They even have emotions. Whales and dolphins certainly have emotions. You may have seen a news item recently that described how some animal lovers cut free the nets that had trapped a number of whales.

According to the story, as soon as the whales were freed they swam round and round their rescuers all the while looking them straight in the eyes as if to thank them.

It’s such a mistake to insist that fish don’t feel. We only have to stop and think about it to realize that it makes no sense. Sadly it’s a myth that we continue to spread to numb our own feelings and to assuage our guilt.  And as for those people who know better – we can only hope that their ranks will grow.


  • likuid

    I agree that fish can feel. In fact, almost all multi-cellular organisms can feel pain. Pain is a very primitive construct that evolved early on to give lifeforms a mechanism by which they could recognize and avoid things that threatened their structural integrity. Many forms of plant life also feel pain, albeit in a different way than animals get the sensation. All that aside I just wanted to make sure you knew that whales are in fact mammals and not fish. You didnt make that clear in your post.

  • Sandra

    You’re right about whales being mammals of course. I just lumped all “fish” together to make the point that they all have feelings.

    And by the way, I agree with you about the plants too. Have you read “The Secret Life of Plants?” A most erudite book that goes into that in depth.

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