What We Think Of Farmed Fish Intelligence
Fish sentience is a topic that is becoming more and more important for animal advocacy. Here at Faunalytics, we’ve looked at at ethical implications and practical implications of fish sentience. And also, we’ve simply delved into the topic of fish sentience to help enrich our understanding of other animals. We believe the sentience of fish is important for our understanding, and for advocacy. How the general public views the sentience of fish is important. It helps to drive their ethical choices. And it could inspire them to consume fewer fish and fish products.
Recently, Mercy For Animals conducted a study to determine how people look at the sentience of fish. They compared this to how people view other non-humans, as well as humans and inanimate objects. Using Amazon Mechanical Turk, they surveyed nearly 300 participants. The participants rated six different species based on their intelligence, and on their ability to feel physical pain, mental pain, and mental pleasure. As a type of control group, the participants rated chimpanzees first. Then, they rated pigs, cows, chickens, dogs, fish, and plants. After finishing the ratings, the participants estimated how often they ate certain foods.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the participants generally rated chimps and dogs as closest to humans on all measures. And they rated fish as having the “lowest levels of sentience.” What’s more, they generally ranked all animals in the same order for each measure: chimps ranked as the highest or most like humans followed by dogs, pigs, cows, and chickens. And fish came in last, before plants. When the researchers added in the dietary component, they found that “the more meat a participant reported eating, the less intelligent and less able to feel pain and pleasure they rated animals of all species.” The relationship between these two aspects was “particularly strong” for people who consumed a lot of beef.
For animal advocates, the study doesn’t necessarily provide ground-breaking findings, or results that run counter to prevailing wisdom or anecdotal knowledge. Still, it does provide actual baseline data from which it may be possible to chart the way that people’s perceptions of fish sentience change over time. As we continue to advocate for animals raised for food, whether they are farmed on land or in the sea, mapping and measuring people’s perceptions remains vital.