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Vegan Fishing

Posted by tinako on August 15, 2011

When my son was way too young, a relative gave him a kids’ fishing pole and tackle set.  I think he was four, and this thing had hooks.  There was no way I was going to tie a hook on a string and let him swing it around.

In addition, there was always the worry that he might catch a fish.  When I was a kid, I spent many hours fishing.  I would try this lure and that, having no interest in spearing a worm.  It was great fun trying to figure out what a fish might like and how the lure should wiggle in the water.  I can’t conclude anything about that, since in all the years I sat on the dock with that pole, I never caught a single fish.  And it didn’t matter one bit.

Now we are vegetarian/vegan, and while my son catching a fish didn’t seem all that likely, it was remotely possible, so strike two against putting a hook on, even now that they are older.  I used the clip on the end of the line to spear a rubber worm, closed the clip and put on a bobbin.  For several years my son didn’t seem to know that others used hooks or that there was no chance of catching anything.  Once in a while he wondered where the fish were, but agreed they were happier down there than up on our dock.  It was a very strange line to walk, but he was happy, I could relax, and no fish got hurt.   Now they don’t seem to care.  My daughter, 8, stands at the end of the dock casting away for hours.

A friend of my son visited us and laughed good-naturedly.  “Heh, don’t you like our vegetarian fishing?” I joked back.

“I thought you would catch and release,” he answered.

“Nah, that hurts the fish.”

That seemed to satisfy him, and made me think as well.  Catch and release is vegetarian fishing.  I’m not trying to drive a wedge between vegans and vegetarians, or put vegetarians down for what they do, which is greatly reduce their animal intake, and many thanks for that.   However, the fact remains that if  someone is eating eggs or dairy, they are causing suffering to animals.  They’re not eating the actual animal, but the pain caused is very real.

Anyone fishing by catch and release is also not actually eating the caught animal, but is still clearly causing pain.  It’s a fishing hook in your face.  Ouch!  Ellen Degeneres likened it to deliberately running down pedestrians with your car and then getting out to help them up, saying, “Off you go.  I just wanted to see if I could hit you.”

Our vegan fishing may seem silly, but really what the kids want to do is play with the neat pole, get better at casting, relax, and imagine, a la McElligott’s Pool.  In the same way, for a long time it was hard or impossible to find vegetarian marshmallows, so sometimes the kids would feel left out, but I discovered that what they really wanted to do was poke a stick in the fire and burn things.  They were perfectly happy sticking a leaf on a twig and “toasting” that.  Now that we’ve found marshmallows without cow in them, they enjoy them, but mostly it’s about staying up late and running around in the dark.  I have a folding slingshot – I could go into the woods and try to hit squirrels, or I can just try to hit a can.  It’s the aiming and getting better that’s fun.  Some people might call these activities lame shadows of their true purposes, but if it’s fun and matches our values, who cares?

Sometimes we need to go beyond what we think we want to find the real desire.  Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says we don’t crave meat, we crave fat, salt, and flavor.  Maybe we just want to see how far we can fling a rubber worm into the lake, too.


One Response to “Vegan Fishing”

  1. Rob said

    Great! Sounds like you have a good time on the lake and visit the fish rather than bother them. Ideal!

    I vividly remember enjoying my two pre-vegan experiences fishing with friends, the first time in the ocean and the second time in a lake. The first time we stood on a beach, drank beers, and joked for a couple of hours. It was great, and no one caught anything but flack. The second time fishing, in a lake, was much the same except that I did catch a fish for the first time. It was exciting at first, then horrifying to see the fish die. Knowing that I was personally responsible for that fish’s painful death affected me deeply, even though I was still an omnivore at that time. I’m thankful to that fish for helping make so clear to me the importance of personal responsibility for our actions, even indirect ones. It wasn’t long before I was experimenting with vegetarianism, and would later become vegan.

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