Growing up I was exposed to what some may deem the "cruelties" of hunting and fishing. However, I was the only brother who didn't cry after my first kill. Pelting four to seven BBs into a chippering chipmunk without hitting it in any of its vital organs. Certainly, this was a slow and painful death. The legitimacy of this behavior was rooted in years of socialization and was mainly to prevent burrowing rodents from getting into our roof rafters where they might cause chaos. Also notable, I grew up in the country where this practice was frequent and socially reinforced. I don't retrospectively feel good or bad about this. Socialization is what it is and functions as such. Nor, do I think hunting or fishing is some grossly patriarchal representation perpetuating masculine violence and aggression in terms of a power structure. (Though, sometimes it may serve this purpose.) For this post, I am interested in the paradox by which people will legitimize the torturing and suffering of some living creature, a minnow, a worm and yet on another note ridicule the unethical use of something like a domesticated dog for the use of shark bait.
The first response to this crux of my blog post will ride on something like this: Fish don't feel pain, worms don't have pain receptors, or frogs are the natural bait of Northern. Dogs feel pain, they have the ability to feel. . . It can probably be assumed that just like fish, most animals I discuss here have the ability to experience suffering via their biological sets. I won't give dozens of examples just for the sake of proving some animals experience suffering and others don't. Even more absurd to me would be to suggest that animals that don't experience suffering can be used for food and bait and the ones that do shouldn't be. But, for the sake of fish, they do experience suffering as good research suggests. (Do Fish Feel Pain - Victoria BraithWaite)
With that, it is important to note that for a long time, as a young child, I would happily place minnows and anglers on the hook and watch them twitch and curl. As I observed I laughed comfortably. Not to mention the first time I saw a mouse trap sever the functioning of the mind/brain to the rest of the mouse's squirming body: I cried shortly before bursting into a laughter. The laughter was at my own petty empathy for what was certainly a pest and a threat to my health. Rodents carry disease and must be terminated at all costs. But the torture of frogs, my beloved creatures who I invested much time in memorizing their mating calls and physical characteristics, I could not contend with. The idea of using them for anything other than appreciation was abhorrent to me.Especially to use them as ammunition in a shotgun/BB gun.
What can be identified in myself in the last paragraph is a hierarchy of sympathy towards animal's pain. Basically what is termed as speciesm. This term is certainly controversial. (BBC - Ethics Animal Ethics) Though, my definition going a step further to include putting value not on my own species, but on other species above others. The frog above the worm per-say. Or, in the case of most rational people who place the dog above the frog in what to use for bait. (Are Dogs Being Used as Shark Bait?) If one accepts what I have accepted, they come across a a disturbing but palatable paradox. I will walk through my own reasoning to help others get over the most difficult of barriers. That is to accept that fish, frogs, minnows, and dogs alike experience pain and suffering.
I place my hand upon a hot stove and I retract not because I am human and rational and therefore better than other creatures. I retract because it is an instinctual response to prevent the body from physical suffering and even death. Just as the frog that leaps, hops, and bounds towards long grass to escape children who try to catch it in their curious hands. Instinct. Just as a fish flops violently and restlessly when out of water. Instinct. Just as a worm curls and the minnow twitches when a sharpened point penetrates their internal flesh and organs. Instinct. Just as a pig squeals, just as a dog whimpers, just as a human flinches when a bird comes to close to the eye. Instinct.
Sure, I could go into the facts and the jargon of biology and describe the peculiar and mysterious methods by which these biological responses occur and even how they vary. However, with an open eye to experience, the last paragraph is simply what I observe. It is a paradox which one must admit that the behavior of piercing an angler pains the angler just as the behavior of piercing the dog pains the dog. The two are the same and when one sees the two as such, the consequences are hard to contend with.