The last few years have seen a strong rise in awareness of how the animals we raise for food are treated. Numerous laws have been passed in several states in an attempt to make life less hideous for animals in factory farms.
California's Prop 2, which passed in 2008, not only did away with gestation crates for pigs and painfully small crates for veal calves, it also was the first law to specifically address birds. Hens, raised in California for their eggs, will no longer be subjected to life inside battery cages. Animal advocates saw the passage of Prop 2 as a huge victory, and it is.
But what about the sea animals we eat? What about fish? Should we take their suffering into consideration? Are they just seafood, or should fish have rights?
I can see heads at Fox News exploding.
But if you think only rights here that matter are fishing rights, consider this:
Mercy For Animals, a Chicago-based non-profit group, just released a hidden camera investigation inside a Dallas county fish slaughter facility called Catfish Corner. The video is stark and harrowing. It shows workers using pliers to pull the skin off fish while they're still alive, and live fish having their bodies cut in half and their heads ripped off.
The most recent scientific evidence strongly suggests that fish feel and process pain much as mammals do. So isn't this a clear case of cruelty to animals?
Mercy For Animals approached the Dallas County District Attorney's office with their video to ask just that question. The D.A. refused to file charges, citing the limitations of animal cruelty laws of Texas.
Texas isn't the only culprit, it turns out. There are no laws in the United States that define cruel treatment of marine life.
So to answer the question: yes. Fish are animals, and animals have rights. Especially the right not to be skinned alive, or to be cut in half while fully conscious.