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Sea kittens . . . really?

flounder_sea_kittenNext time you’re reeling in that fish, picture Whiskers or Fluffy hooked through the mouth on the end of your line.  At least that is what PETA would like you to do.  In a new PR campaign the animal rights group is attempting to rebrand “fish” as “sea kitten”.  The rationale:

When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it’s time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?

Point well taken.  But I am not sure how I feel about my subject of study (I am an ichthyologist that does research on the fish eye) being renamed.  PETA argues that:

People don’t seem to like fish. They’re slithery and slimy, and they have eyes on either side of their pointy little heads—which is weird, to say the least.

But I love fish, and I know legions of other ichthyologists that love fish too.  And yes, I occasionally meet people, tell them I am an ichthyologist, then explain what that means, find out that they think that is cool, but am then asked:  then you don’t eat fish, do you?  But I also love eating fish, as do most ichthyologists I know.  Is it weird to like eating the group that you study.  I have a mycologist friend (studies fungi) who doesn’t like to eat mushrooms.  But I think that’s an exception.  And yes, many of you study organisms that you probably don’t want to eat.  I am talking to you, entomologists and parasitologists.  But I bet you malacologists out there love your oysters and scallops.  Admit it, you ornithologists eat chicken.

While our love for eating fish, and the need for this important source of protein in the diets of many humans, is leading to the collapse of fisheries and marine ecosystems, making fish seem cute is not the solution.  Ironically, the economic importance of fish and other marine organisms as food will play an important role in turning back the decay of our oceans, if that is possible.  Whether it is restoration of the Chesapeake Bay to bring back the oysters and crabs, research in the Gulf of Mexico to maintain red snapper populations (check out that mahi my ichthyologist friend Will caught) or limits on trawling in the North Atlantic.

But I did have fun making my custom “sea kitten” (see the top of this post).  Although it was labeled a flounder, but clearly has only one eye on the side of its head.  What’s up with that?

The NPR story on the new PETA campaign attracted a money comment:

This story evokes a wonderful memory of a recent trip I had back to my mountain cabin. I had a nice hike and spotted a wonderful Sky Origami (falcon) crushing a Stuart Little (mouse) in its razor sharp talons. When I got back to the cabin I made sure the House Bunny (dog) was in so it wouldn’t get mauled by a Forest Angel (bear) that night.

5 comments to Sea kittens . . . really?

  • I’m allergic to cats – and really think cats are pompous animals. I have to say that for me a fish has never made me break out in hives, or looked at me arrogantly. Sorry PETA your “force like” mind games won’t work on me. . . . .

  • Neeley

    My roomates and I agree that if you’re going to start renaming things so people wont want to kill them, then a whole name make over would need to be done. Who is to say people don’t want to eat kittens? Im sure there are many places where people eat cats (maybe more so in other countries), but all the same. Thanks PETA for a good laugh!

  • Maybe we could try (a) educating people about fisheries management and (b) not overfishing/fishing current stocks. That might help a lot more than “renaming” animals. As to PETA, they might want to rename themselves to PETP (People for the Ethical Treatment of People) and focus more on helping the poor and underprivileged people around the world.

  • […] A Fish Eye View blogging about comparative physiology with some marine and regional flavor « Sea kittens . . . really? […]

  • As a fully grown and intelligent Cat who takes responsibility for matters concerning felines I must protest at PETA’S dopey idea of renaming fish sea-kittens. This is an example of the very worst sort of identity theft as it is directed at harmless, vulnerable, defenceless feline kittens i.e. real ones.
    Whhatever are those fascists at PETA thinking?

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