LONDON Anglers, rest easy: Fish cannot feel pain, the largest study into piscine neurology has concluded.
The study of James D. Rose, a professor of zoology and physiology at the University of Wyoming, has concluded that awareness of pain depends on functions of specific regions of the cerebral cortex that fish do not possess.
But what about that flopping around on the hook?
Mr. Rose, said previous studies that indicated fish can feel pain had confused “nociception” responding to a threatening stimulus with feeling pain.
“Pain is predicated on awareness,” he said. “A person who is anaesthetized in an operating theater will still respond physically to an external stimulus, but he or she will not feel pain.
“Anyone who has seen a chicken with its head cut off will know that while its body can respond to stimuli, it cannot be feeling pain.”
Mr. Rose said he was enormously concerned with the welfare of fish, but that given his findings, campaigners should concentrate on ensuring that they were able to enjoy clean and well-managed rivers and seas.
Despite the new findings, a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has spent millions on an anti-angling campaign, said: “We believe that fishing is barbaric. Of course animals can feel pain. They have sensitivity, if only to avoid predators.”