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Environmental Ethics

Volume 18, Issue 4, Winter 1996

A. Dionys de Leeuw
Pages 373-390
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics19961844

Contemplating the Interests of Fish
The Angler’s Challenge

I examine the morality of sport fishing by focusing on the respect that anglers show for the interests of fish compared to the respect that hunters show for their game. Angling is a form of hunting because of the strong link between these two activities in literature, in management, and in the individual’s participation in both angling and hunting, and in the similarity of both activities during the process of pursuing an animal in order to control it. Fish are similar in many ways to animals that are hunted, including their interests in survival and in avoiding pain. These interests need to be considered by anglers for moral reasons. All hunters and anglers value their sport with animals more than they respect the lives of animals they pursue. Hunters are, therefore, similar to anglers in the respect that they show for the survival interests of their game animals. Hunters, however, are significantly different from anglers in the respect that they show for an animal’s interest in avoiding pain and suffering. While hunters make every effort to reduce pain and suffering in their game animals, anglers purposefully inflict these conditions on fish. These similarities and differences have three important consequences: (1) The moral argument justifying the killing of animals for sport in hunting must apply to all of angling as well. (2) Angling, unlike hunting, requires a second justification for the intentional infliction of avoidable pain and suffering in fish. (3) If ethical hunters hold true to their principle of avoiding all suffering in the animals that they pursue, then hunters must reject all sports fishing.

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