Minding Nemo How fishes live and die in the human world.

My boyhood relationship to fishes probably was not untypical of other boyhoods, with the possible exception that I was born with an unusually strong empathy for other creatures. A summer camp fishing outing when I was 8 years old left me confused when my mentor, an otherwise kindly man, was all of a sudden plunging a long knife into the fishes’ skulls. I also fretted privately about the worms, and worried whether some of the “keeper” fishes[1] were dying slowly in the wire basket hanging from the side of the boat. The next year I was recruited to help move school supplies from one classroom to another. Concerned that it might be imperiled in the hands of a less able student, I offered to carry a goldfish bowl with its lone occupant. All went smoothly until just before I reached the countertop in the destination room. The bowl slipped from my hands, smashing on the floor. It took two minutes to find the fish, who had somehow bounced onto the inner lip of a radiator. Goldie barely survived, and to this day the memory makes me shudder.

Against this backdrop of concern for individual fishes, I blithely participated in the consumption of anonymous ones who ended up in my Filet-O-FishTM sandwiches on family trips to McDonald’s, and in the processed “fish sticks” my mother served with dinner. My inchoate ethics were unready to make the connection between the bass on the line, the being in the fishbowl, and the flakes of white flesh disguised beneath oily batter. Had I been counseled on this moral misalignment, I believe I might have taken action. As it was, the consumption of fish—indeed, all animals bred for the menu—was tacitly endorsed by family and friends, so I, like virtually anyone else, went along with it.

My inchoate ethics were unready to make the connection between the bass on the line, the being in the fishbowl, and the flakes of white flesh disguised beneath oily batter. Had I been counseled on this moral misalignment, I believe I might have taken action.

It was not until I was 25 that my ethics caught up with me and I stopped eating animals, fishes included. By that time I had finished an undergraduate degree in biology, and I was beginning to set my sights on a career in animal protection. In the remainder of this essay, I visit the troubled but evolving human-fish relationship in several contexts. Starting with how we have underestimated the behavioral and emotional complexity of fishes, I then discuss how we catch and kill them for food, the aquarium trade, efforts to protect them including legislation, and lastly, what must happen if we are to cohabit the Earth sustainably and ethically with fishes.

 

Underestimated

It is only during the last half century that advances in technology have allowed us to swim among fishes, and to film them. Simultaneously, a scientific revolution has occurred: a former taboo against studying animals’ subjective experiences has been lifted. Scientists are now asking questions that give rise to discoveries that would not long ago been dismissed as fantasy.

Not only has science essentially put to rest the malevolent myth that fishes do not feel pain[1], science is also showing that fishes are intelligent, emotional, even Machiavellian. Among their achievements, fishes have personalities, they plan, recognize, remember, court, play, parent, innovate, manipulate, collaborate, communicate with gestures, keep accounts, show virtue, form attachments, possess culture, fall for optical illusions, use tools, learn by observation, form mental maps, and behave differently according to who’s watching (so-called audience effects). Having spent five years swimming among, researching and writing about the lives of fishes, I am convinced that they merit equal respect and moral consideration with their celebrated vertebrate cousins the mammals and birds.

As for words, fishes do not appear to exchange them as we do, but the referential head-shaking and pointing gestures made by groupers to moray eels represent a level of interspecies communication found virtually nowhere else in nature.

Why is the gap so vast between fishes’ capacities, of which so few of us are yet aware, and the impoverished popular view that regards them as cold-blooded, dead-eyed, and dim? I believe our alienation from fishes stems from the fact that they have existed, both literally and figuratively, beneath the surface of our awareness. Gaze over a lake, a river, or an ocean, and while there may be legions of fishes carrying on with their lives within inches of the surface, we witness nothing of it.

To this geophysical barrier separating us, we may add the physical barriers provided by the fishes themselves. In his 1923 poem Fish, D.H. Lawrence conveyed the alienation we may feel on regarding a fish:

No fingers, no hands and feet, no lips;
No tender muzzles,
No wistful bellies,
No loins of desire,
None.

 

Having evolved in a fundamentally different environment to the air-breathing vertebrates, fishes look and function, at least superficially, differently in proportion to their disparate milieu. That they cannot breathe in air, and we cannot in water, is as if they hailed from another planet. Their eyes, while served by the same six ocular muscles that serve our eyes, are unblinking and appear fixed. (There is, of course, no need for eyelids to spread tears over eyes that are constantly bathed in water.)

A closer examination reveals that appearances can be deceiving. Here is Lawrence again:

They drive in shoals.
But soundless, and out of contact.
They exchange no word, no spasm, not even anger.
Not one touch.
Many suspended together, forever apart,

 

But in fact, fishes do make sounds. Consider this list of descriptors: hums, whistles, thumps, stridulations, creaks, grunts, pops, croaks, pulses, drums, knocks, purrs, brrrs, clicks, moans, chirps, buzzes, growls, and snaps. So acoustic are some species that we have named them accordingly: grunts, drums, trumpeters, croakers, and sea robins. The sense of touch is also highly developed in many fishes, who rely on it to find food in the murk, to court mates, and to earn goodwill in long-term cleaner-client relationships. As for words, fishes do not appear to exchange them as we do, but the referential head-shaking and pointing gestures made by groupers to moray eels represent a level of interspecies communication found virtually nowhere else in nature.

 

Caught

When it comes to humans’ treatment of fishes, respect and consideration rarely manifest. Of all the vertebrates, we kill more individual fishes than the others combined. Estimates range from hundreds of billions to over a trillion per year. Most are wild-caught, mainly falling victim to purse seines, long-lines, or bottom trawlers. Recent technological advances, including helicopter reconnaissance and use of sonar to locate fish schools, and refrigeration for long-term storage at sea leave targeted fishes with little hope of escaping. Commercial fishing methods were designed for efficiency, not humaneness. The predominant causes of death for commercially caught fishes are suffocation, crushing, decompression and evisceration/bleeding, none of which would be high on my list of ways to go. Neither would having one’s fins cut off and being cast overboard to die, a fate that meets some 70 million sharks per year.

Of all the vertebrates, we kill more individual fishes than the others combined. Estimates range from hundreds of billions to over a trillion per year.

Commercial take has an insidious side-effect: bycatch. Bycatch refers to the capture of non-targeted and therefore often unwanted fishes and other marine organisms (including dolphins and whales, sea turtles, and seabirds). A 2009 study estimated global bycatch at 200 million pounds per day. The shrimp industry is especially notorious for high bycatch rates that can exceed 90 percent of the haul. That’s something to bear in mind when you’re planning your next barbecue. In my lectures on the lives of fishes, I include a close-up photograph of a shrimp net hauled up off the Mozambique coast; dozens of fishes are visible crammed against the unyielding mesh, with hardly a shrimp in sight. Most creatures caught as bycatch are either dead or dying when they are dumped overboard.

There is another significant contributor to fish mortality, owing to its worldwide popularity: recreational fishing. Two fisheries biologists estimated in 2004 that 55 billion fishes are recreationally landed every year, of which 36 percent (about 20 billion) are killed and the remainder returned to the water. It is unknown how many of the released fishes die later from trauma caused by hooks (removed, still attached, or ingested), loss of scales and skin mucus, fin fraying or other damage caused by landing nets, or prolonged lack of oxygen.

At least animals caught at sea or with rod and reel lived free before they died. The factory farming of fishes, commonly known as aquaculture, has been the fastest growing food production sector since the 1990s, and today comprises about 40 percent of the total fish yield. Commercially desirable fishes are reared intensively in marine and freshwater net pens, or land-based tanks or ponds. On trout farms, densities can be as high as 27 foot-long fishes per bathtub size of water, leading to chronic frustration of natural behaviors such as foraging, migration, mate-finding, courtship, and breeding. Viral and bacterial diseases and parasites flourish in these conditions, where hosts are plentiful and they have nowhere to get away. Toxic chemicals used to combat illness, and concentrations of fish waste, add to the strain. Many fishes fail to cope. A recent Norwegian study of farmed salmon found that “drop-outs”—an industry term for stunted individuals who stop eating and die—had abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and concluded that they were “severely depressed.”[3]

At least, one might think that captive rearing of fishes for human consumption takes pressure off targeted wild populations. Actually, it does not. The fish flesh favored by consumers in the developed world comes from predatory species near the top of the food chain: tuna, salmon, and Alaskan pollock made up three of the four leading marine species (after shrimp) consumed by Americans in 2011, according to the National Fisheries Institute. Tuna and pollock are not farmed, but salmon are. To feed them in captivity requires large amounts of “feed fish.” Think anchovies, herrings, and menhadens. Nearly all are captured on the seas, and most, between 40 and 80 percent, are fed to farmed fishes (nearly all the rest are fed to pigs and chickens on factory farms). More than half of the world’s fish oil production is fed to farmed salmon, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Much more can be said about humanity’s consumption of fishes. Historically, in an era of subsistence, we simply took what we needed. In the commercial era, we take as much as we can. Today the volume of fish we catch is limited not by our fishing effort, but by how many fishes there are available to catch. The widely used fishing industry term Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), epitomizes a human-centered approach to nature. MSY refers to the highest volume of something (in this case, fish) that can be taken from the wild without causing a population decline next year. The concept is anthropocentric, without consideration for the welfare of individual fishes. MSY would look favorably on killing an additional 100 million sardines, so long as there would be another 100 million to replace them next year. We might regard with horror such a calculus applied to domestic dogs. Yet there is no sound scientific basis to conclude that a sardine’s pain is felt any less exquisitely than a dog’s.

 

Kept

While the numbers of fishes used in the aquarium trade pale next to those consumed as food, keeping fishes as pets is nevertheless a large industry, and one rarely scrutinized.

I can understand the appeal of aquarium fishes. Watching them can be as mesmerizing as gazing at a lit fireplace. I visited a home with six brilliantly colored discus fishes in a large tank with cory catfishes, neon tetras, dojos, and kuhli loaches. As I watched the discuses flouncing languidly in the water column like movie stars, I felt lighter. The two orange ones radiated as if they had each swallowed a shaft of sunlight, their diaphanous fins reminiscent of the draped woman in Frederick Leighton’s iconic painting, Flaming June. They rose to nibble proffered food from my fingertips.

But at what cost?

Each year, over 45 countries export 30 million fishes from coral reefs as part of the global marine ornamental aquarium trade. About 2,000 species are exploited worldwide, and nearly all of the marine ones are wild-caught. Most are destined for the United States, Europe, and Japan. In my local PetSmart store, there are a hundred or more varieties of small, colorful fishes, most from reefs.

Fish collecting methods can be notoriously destructive. Corals are smashed to get at fishes hiding within. Cyanide is often used to temporarily incapacitate fishes, but the fine line between stunning and killing depends on uncontrollable factors such as diffusion rates, fish size, and species. Death rates of 75 percent with cyanide are not unusual. Other toxic compounds used to disable fishes include rotenone, bleach, and quinaldine. These toxins also often kill targeted fishes as well as other reef organisms. There has been some progress in reforming these practices through collector training programs, but less is known of the flourishing illegal trade in exotic fishes, whose estimated worth approaches 10 billion euros a year. While I was writing this essay, a new study reported that illegal use of cyanide poisoning to supply the aquarium reef fish market is a major threat to Indo-Pacific reefs; 15 percent of fishes screened (non-invasively) tested positive for cyanide.

After Indonesia and the Philippines, Hawaii is the world’s third-largest exporter of exotic fishes caught for the aquarium trade. Between 1.5 million and 3.75 million reef fishes are taken from Hawaii’s native reefs each year, mostly for restocking household marine aquariums. Hawaiians are proud of their natural heritage and a majority of them favor ending the commercial trade in reef wildlife, according to a 2012 poll commissioned by Humane Society International. In 2017, a bill to phase out aquarium fish collecting in Hawaii passed the Hawaii legislature, only to be vetoed by Hawaii’s governor, David Ige. I asked Hawaii’s leading marine life advocate, Robert Wintner (aka Snorkel Bob), why the governor did this. “He folded to big money—specifically the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, the ninja assassin for big fishing on a global scale,” Wintner told me. Nevertheless, the measure generated unprecedented support for an issue that has been out of view of the general public for decades. Winter and other activists are forming REEFPAC, whose mission is to replace weakness and corruption with ecologically and ethically sound policy in Hawaii’s reef management.

… the chances that a fish collected from a wild reef survives all the way to your local pet store are 20 to 80 percent. The fishes you see there have been through the mill, and they may be among a minority of survivors. If one of these hardy little souls finds its way into a home aquarium, anecdotal data suggest that it has a fifty-fifty chance of still being alive in six months, and less than a third at one year.

Collection of wild fishes affects wild populations. A 2003 study examined populations of ten common and popular aquarium fishes at sites in Hawaii where collection was allowed, and compared these with nine ecologically similar but non-targeted species at the same sites. Seven of the ten targeted species were depleted at these sites, compared to just two of the nine non-targeted species. An undercover investigation in China reported in 2012 that 150 million seahorses are used annually in China alone as traditional medicine, and international trade in dead and live seahorses, for Asian medicine and aquarium markets, respectively, has decimated their populations in Asian waters by about half since the mid-1990s.

Those fishes that survive initial collection face further perils en route to the aquarist. The various stressors—rough capture, decompression, confinement in clear plastic bags, jostling about on boat decks, transport trucks and airplane holds, storage, and starvation—often prove too much for these delicate creatures. Overall estimates are that 10-40 percent die during holding prior to export, another 5-10 percent during transport, and another 5-60 percent during holding after import. Putting these numbers together, the chances that a fish collected from a wild reef survives all the way to your local pet store are 20 to 80 percent. The fishes you see there have been through the mill, and they may be among a minority of survivors. If one of these hardy little souls finds its way into a home aquarium, anecdotal data suggest that it has a fifty-fifty chance of still being alive in six months, and less than a third at one year. Yvonne Sadovy, a fish biologist at the University of Hong Kong, describes the sad fate of the aquarium fish: “[They] are treated like cut flowers, dying soon after they are purchased, then simply being replaced.”

 

Protected

We must be thankful that not all reefs are being plundered of their wildlife for human ends. In 2004 the Australian government closed vast areas of the Great Barrier Reef to commercial and recreational fishing, and re-zoned the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to create the world’s largest network of marine “no-take” zones. The result is a total ban on fishing over an area of 100,000 square kilometers (38,610 square miles); that is about one-third of the park, which spans about 344,400 km (132,974). The response from fishes was quickly evident. Within two years, populations of keystone fish species such as Coral Trout and Stripy Sea Perch were up to 50 percent more abundant in the protected sectors of the reef than in sectors still open to fishing.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ global shark conservation campaign has helped establish ten shark sanctuaries around the world. All ban commercial shark fishing and together total about 4.9 million square miles. You can find shark sanctuaries in Palau, The Bahamas, Honduras, and the British Virgin Islands. Pew’s shark conservation efforts are currently focused on protecting some of the most threatened species: silky, big-eye thresher, common thresher, and pelagic thresher sharks. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was first established by President George W. Bush in 2009, then expanded from nearly 87,000 to 370,000 square miles by President Barack Obama in 2014. Encompassing seven islands and atolls in the central Pacific Ocean southwest of the Hawaiian archipelago, the monument is considered to harbor the most widespread collection of marine life on the planet under a single country’s jurisdiction.

Providing sanctuary to fishes and their habitats is not just ecological, it is also economical. Case in point: the Bahamas, which boasts one of the healthiest shark populations in the world, has about 40 species occurring there. Recognizing the value of these vulnerable creatures, the Bahamian government in mid-2011 banned all commercial shark fishing in its territorial waters, which encompass 240,000 square miles. The Bahamas had already banned longline fishing 20 years earlier. Tourism makes up 60 percent of the Bahamas’ gross domestic product, of which non-consumptive shark tourism earns about $80 million per year.

As the value of protected ocean wildlife rises, nations are starting to take decisive action to protect their waters and send a message to poachers. In February 2015, the Indonesian Navy burned and sank a Vietnam-flagged boat caught illegally fishing off the Indonesian island of Batam.

As that figure hints, a living shark is worth more than a dead shark, considering that a shark can only be caught once but can be viewed many times. In the journal Marine and Freshwater Research, a team of researchers reported in 2011 on a 57-month study that monitored 39 lemon sharks who support a shark-feeding tourism industry in French Polynesia. Each of the 13 sharks most often observed at the site had an average yearly earning power of around $316,000. That translates to a potential return of $2.64 million over the shark’s typical lifespan. A shark’s value in the Bahamas runs up to $750,000 alive but only $40-$50 dead. An economic analysis for the Republic of Maldives found a 100- to 1000-fold value increase for a shark still swimming in her home waters compared to a dead one.

Revenues like these not only protect sharks and energize coastal economies, they can be used to drive further conservation efforts. In Fiji, for example, part of the dividends earned by diving clubs, amounting yearly to several tens of thousands of Fijian dollars, are paid to villages lying adjacent to the protected area. The residents simply get paid for not fishing in it.

As the value of protected ocean wildlife rises, nations are starting to take decisive action to protect their waters and send a message to poachers. In February 2015, the Indonesian Navy burned and sank a Vietnam-flagged boat caught illegally fishing off the Indonesian island of Batam. In June of the same year, the government of Palau impounded then oversaw the burning at sea of four Vietnamese poaching boats off Palau’s coast. Their crews were sent home. Palau was the first to establish a shark sanctuary, banning all commercial shark fishing in its 243,000 square mile exclusive economic zone—an area the size of France—in 2009. In May of 2015, Palau president Tommy Remengesau announced a plan to ban all commercial fishing in its waters as soon as contracts with Japan and Taiwan expired. The South Pacific nation—which consists of 250 islands and a human population of 20,000—is obtaining radar equipment and drones to monitor its waters.

However earnestly we might be able to expand ocean sanctuaries, these are still relatively small steps. They provide no assured shelter from the effects of climate change, invasive species introductions, and poaching. We see global warming as a problem in the air, but 93 percent of the Earth’s heat is absorbed by the ocean, which is out of sight, out of mind, says Richard Vevers, who directs The Ocean Agency, a non-profit organization that drives conservation through media.

 

Legislated

Animals’ place in popular consciousness is evolving quickly, and fishes are inexorably being swept into the current. In 2011, the first International Workshop on Fish Welfare was held in Madrid. Three years later, Eurogroup for Animals—an amalgamation of over forty non-governmental organizations working for animal protection in Europe—released its 12-point strategic priorities for 2015-2020. Number 10 on the list: to position fish welfare in the political and legislative mind map of the EU. Since its formation in the early 1980s, Eurogroup’s overarching vision is to establish policies and practices that uphold the sentience and intrinsic value of animals (fishes now included) as laid down in Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. Lisbon, which applies to all European Union states, is widely praised by animal advocates for being the first treaty to enshrine animal sentience into international law. Given that it marks the first time that animals’ capacity to feel has been articulated in legislation anywhere, the significance of Lisbon is hard to overestimate. Its leveraging power has helped Eurogroup advance animal welfare on several fronts, including: banning small veal crates for calves, banning battery cages for hens, requiring that pregnant sows be kept in groups with enough space to move around, using accepted non-animal methods in research and safety testing, phasing out the sale of cosmetic products tested on animals, and banning the import of wild-caught birds for the pet trade.

In Switzerland and Italy, it is now illegal to keep a goldfish alone in a barren fishbowl. These laws are scientifically informed; the iconic “goldfish bowl” is woefully inadequate for naturally social animals who can live 40 years. … In July 2013, the German Animal Welfare Act was revised, prescribing severe fines or even prison sentences for anyone who, without due cause, kills or inflicts severe pain or suffering on a vertebrate animal, fishes included.

It remains to be seen how well Eurogroup can gain traction for fishes in the EU. That fishes are formally included in its ambit can only help.

There is nothing to stop EU member states from exceeding minimum EU standards. In Switzerland and Italy, it is now illegal to keep a goldfish alone in a barren fishbowl. These laws are scientifically informed; the iconic “goldfish bowl” is woefully inadequate for naturally social animals who can live 40 years. A law enacted in April 2008 by the Swiss federal parliament, the Bundesrat, sets a higher bar. Among its provisions are that anglers be required to complete a course on catching fishes (more) humanely, and that aquarium fishes must be provided with places to hide. Current legislation in Germany already stipulates that anglers may only head out with a rod and reel if they are fishing for food or to maintain healthy fish populations. Tournaments in which the catch is thrown back in the water after it is weighed have been banned—along with the use of minnows as live bait. In July 2013, the German Animal Welfare Act was revised, prescribing severe fines or even prison sentences for anyone who, without due cause, kills or inflicts severe pain or suffering on a vertebrate animal, fishes included.

Once again, these are preliminary, geographically confined steps, and furthermore hard to enforce. Outside Europe, few legislative shafts of light are yet to fall on fishes. But beyond their application, laws have a further, ineffable benefit: they legitimize. When an august body of elected leaders enacts law, especially law that wades into unprecedented ethical waters, it signals a societal shift.

 

The future

To what degree will such societal shift gain momentum, and if so, will it come in time? Or are we destined, as some experts now predict, to witness the catastrophic loss of marine life? A 2015 analysis by the World Wildlife Fund and the Royal Zoological Society estimated that we already lost half of all marine life between 1970 and 2012, and some experts have predicted that fishes will be gone by mid-century at current rates of exploitation. The laws of ecology surely preclude such a grim outcome; so critically would the planet’s natural equilibrium be upset that we would see our own demise before the fishes’. It is common knowledge that the oceans cover three-fourths of Earth’s surface, but few of us are aware that oceanic blue-green algae produce more than half of the planet’s oxygen supply.

If we are to turn the tide on our relationship to aquatic habitats and their denizens, a smattering of welfare laws is not going to be enough. It will, quite literally, require a sea of change. There are other problems facing aquatic life that I have not detailed here: ocean warming and acidification, leading to coral bleaching and reef demise (22 percent of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 alone); pollution by chemicals, plastics and microplastics (quadrillions alone in the Baltic Sea); and lost or discarded fishing gear (estimated 640,000 tons per year).

But when it comes down to it, it is our direct persecution of fishes that most harms them. Which leads to one overarching solution, an inconvenient truth so glaring in its simplicity, yet so personal that it rarely gets so much as a mention. We need to stop eating fishes.

Does abstention spell the end of gustation? It need not. Highly palatable, pesticide-free plant-based fish substitutes from such companies as Gardein and Sophie’s Kitchen are now widely available in North American supermarkets. Sydney, Australia is home to Bliss & Chips, the world’s first all-vegan fish-and-chip eatery.

In supply and demand economies, demand drives supply. Remove the consumer, and suppliers will stop investing time and cost to procure a product that does not recoup their expenses. The rows of canned salmon and tuna are only there because consumers pay for them. When we buy stuff, we tell the manufacturer to “do it again.” If, like me, you consider repugnant the netting, hooking, gaffing and suffocating of sentient fishes, then do not fund it. If you are concerned about marine life declines, bycatch, and ghost nets, then stop paying for it. Removing our support for destructive industries is the most direct, immediate impact we can have at the personal level. In numbers, the impacts multiply. Data from the National Fisheries Institute show that Americans decreased our per-capita seafood consumption by nearly 14 percent between 2006 and 2012.

But what of the pleasure of eating seafood? Does abstention spell the end of gustation? It need not. Highly palatable, pesticide-free plant-based fish substitutes from such companies as Gardein and Sophie’s Kitchen are now widely available in North American supermarkets. Sydney, Australia is home to Bliss & Chips, the world’s first all-vegan fish-and-chip eatery.

During a speaking tour in California in April 2017, I had the chance to visit New Wave Foods. Founded in 2015 by marine conservationist Dominique Barnes and biomedical engineer Michelle Wolf, the San Leandro-based company has been developing and perfecting the world’s first algae- and plant-based shrimp. As their website touts, it is a shrimp “uncompromising in taste … [a] shrimp without slavery, bycatch, shellfish allergens, antibiotics, and ecosystem devastation. A shrimp that everybody can love.” Michelle warmed up a few breaded “shrimp” for me. I have not eaten shrimp in decades, but they were decidedly tasty, and shrimp-like as well as my memory serves. New Wave’s first products have already launched with foodservice operators in California and Nevada, with projected nationwide retail availability by the end of 2018.

New Wave Foods is not alone. “We’ve moved past needing to kill animals and ruin the environment for food; we can do much better with the technology that we have.” So says Mike Selden, a biochemist who in June 2016 founded Finless Foods, another biotech firm developing lab-grown seafood products. Finless Foods is one of a coterie of “clean meat” companies developing in vitro animal products using cell tissue technology (the number of such firms has risen from two to eight in just last two years, according to the Good Food Institute). Grown in the laboratory using bioreactors, the approach bypasses the whole animal stage of food production. No catching or rearing, no killing, no blood or mucus, no antibiotics, and no animal suffering. Think chicken without the squawk, pork with no oink, and moo-less beef. Or, in the case of Finless Foods, fish without the gasp.

[1] I prefer the collective “fishes” to the much more oft-used “fish.” It reflects our dim view of this marvelously rich class of sophisticated vertebrates that we use the singular noun to refer to more than one—as if they had no individuality.

[2] There are a handful of scientists who continue to argue that fishes are unconscious and unable to feel anything.

[3] I use quotation marks not to express doubt, but to indicate that in the early 21st Century it is no longer unscientific to conclude that a fish has emotions and a quality of life.

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