Scientists in Norway discovered that “worms squirming on a fishhook feel no pain — nor do lobsters and crabs cooked in boiling water”. I’m not sure I believe it’s that simple, but they’re scientists and I see little reason why they would slant the study on purpose. The details of the study are interesting, at least to me as a squishy-hearted, tree-hugging liberal. Consider:
The government called for the study on pain, discomfort and stress in invertebrates to help in the planned revision of Norway’s animal protection law. Invertebrates cover a range of creatures from insects and spiders to mollusks and crustaceans.
[Professor Wenche] Farstad said most invertebrates, including lobsters and crabs boiled alive, do not feel pain because, unlike mammals, they do not have a big brain to read the signals.
Some more advanced kinds of insects, such as honeybees which display social behavior and a capacity to learn and cooperate, deserve special care, she said.
“We have particular responsibility for animals that we have in our custody. That is not a scientific opinion, but the ethical side of the issue,” Farstad said.
Aside from the obvious American school-boy humor of the professor being named Wenche, I’m impressed that the Norwegian government would consider such a study. It shows a willingness to understand that, even though we’re the dominant species, that doesn’t mean we should kill animals indiscriminately. Of course, the rational side of me understands that this study will be mocked, whether out of bravado or ignorance. It’s not practical to assume that the use of animals for the purpose humans will stop just because a government wants its citizens to be sensitive, but Professor Farstad is correct in acknowledging that ethics matter. Yet, I can’t help noticing the absurdness of another statement by Professor Farstad. Consider:
Norway might have considered banning the use of live worms as fish bait if the study had found they felt pain, but Farstad said “It seems to be only reflex curling when put on the hook … They might sense something, but it is not painful and does not compromise their well-being.”
That may be true, but doesn’t dipping the worm into a body of water moments after impaling it on a hook so that a fish will chomp on its mangled body compromise its well-being?