PETA doesn't want kids to be hookers ... of fish

06/14/12 Janelle Irwin
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Two members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, are traveling the state this week asking families not to go fishing for Father’s Day. Standing just feet from St. Petersburg’s Pier, one dressed as a fish and the other passed out flyers outlining why fishing hurts fish.

The organization is calling it the “Don’t let your kids become hookers” campaign. So as father-son duos across the state make plans to bond while casting their lines off of piers, docks and boats, PETA campaigner Hayden Hamilton is taking her message to some of Florida’s most popular fishing destinations.

“While no parent wants to set a bad example for their kids, when they take them fishing they’re really sending them a very dangerous message that it’s fun to torment and abuse animals.”

Hayden says studies have shown that fish not only feel pain, they are susceptible to stress and have sophisticated social structures and long-term memory capacity. So instead of contributing to what Hayden and supporters see as animal cruelty, she suggests families think of other outings instead of fishing.

“So, we’re asking parents to take their kids on hikes and do more nature oriented activities where you can still bond with your families and you don’t have to torture animals as a result.”

Boating is a popular coastal activity, especially on Father’s Day weekend. But Hayden says families can still enjoy the water without the fishing poles.

“If you take your boat out you can go water skiing or inner tubing or head out on a jet ski or para-sail. There are so many great water activities that don’t revolve around abusing and hooking an animal and making them suffer for your pleasure.”

Hayden stood next to a PETA activist who, despite the blazing heat, wore a full body fish suit. The head had sorrowful, pleading eyes and she held a sign that said “fishing hurts.” Hayden handed flyers to people passing by, some just leaving restaurants with left-over fish sandwiches. Not one person argued against their message, but some passing drivers gave curious looks. Hayden said the turnout for fishing protests tends to be just her and her fish-suited friend. But she hopes the message is received anyway.

“We’re just trying to get people to make the connection that while nobody would dream of spending a family vacation trying to hook the family dog, but dragging a fish through the water is just as cruel as hooking your family dog and trying to drag him behind your car.”

She rejects the argument that fishing is OK because fish are food. The stack of flyers she held tackled that topic too. It claimed that eating fish is unhealthy because it is high in fat and cholesterol and that fish is one of the most notorious culprits of food-born illness.

“More than 15 billion animals are killed every year just to feed America’s meat addiction and there’s so many great vegan and vegetarian options out there and we can all survive on a plant-based diet where nobody has to suffer and feel pain and go through the horrible slaughter process as the 15 billion animals do every year just in America.”

Hayden protested the same topic yesterday in Jacksonville and has two more stops planned. One in West Palm Beach Saturday and Pensacola on Monday.

Two local fishing clubs did not return calls for comment before broadcast.

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