The Sydney Fish Market has a 36-hour “festive frenzy” just before Christmas. According to the animal activist organisation PETA last year, 700 tonnes of fish were killed and sold during it, and PETA wants you to know. This year their activists staged a highly visual stunt to bring attention to the plight of the fish.
The protesters arrived at the market on Barangaroo Ferry Wharf just before the shopping marathon began on Wednesday 18th December. Dressed to great effect in large amounts of body paint depicting red blood-like streaks across their faces and mouths and large metal hooks, they were photographed in a dramatic way on top of each other among fake fish, on a blue tarpaulin, draped with a fishing net.
Placards next to the protesters read “Fish feel pain” and “Stop floundering: Go vegan.”
At the biggest seafood sale of the year the purpose of the stunt was “to ask people to consider who is on their plate this Christmas”.
On its Facebook page, the Australian branch of PETA stated:
“The mass slaughter and consumption of sea animals stand in opposition to the meaning of Christmas, yet millions of aquatic animals are killed for Australian festivities. Please, this Christmas, give comfort and joy to ALL creatures on Earth”.
PETA spokesperson Emily Rice said in a statement:
“The ‘festive frenzy’ is a 36-hour representation of the hell on Earth endured by fish who are netted, dragged out of their aquatic homes, and cut open, all so that their flesh can be sold to consumers. This festive period, PETA is urging everyone to extend the season of goodwill to fish and all other animals by choosing delicious vegan Christmas meals.
“Half of all fish consumed worldwide each year spend their lives in cramped, filthy enclosures on commercial fish farms, where they commonly suffer from parasite infections and diseases or sustain debilitating injuries. Wild-caught fish slowly suffocate or are crushed to death when they’re dragged from the oceans in huge nets … and the throats and stomachs of those who survive are cut open on the decks of fishing boats.”
Fish have intelligence and feel pain
Such actions confront people with the reality that many are generally quite selective in their attitude to animals. PETA quotes Dr Calum Brown, a specialist in fish behaviour from Macquarie University in New South Wales:
“Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of ‘higher’ vertebrates including non-human primates,” says Brown.
They also refer to scientific studies showing that fish do feel pain and suffer as animals do. This is self-evidently true to anybody who has watched a fish who is suffocating after it has been taken out of water.
The organisation also stresses the very significant environmental cost of humans eating seafood with the world’s oceans on the brink of ecological collapse. Coral and marine plants on the seabed are destroyed by nets the size of football fields which are draped by massive trawlers. Dolphins, turtles, and seals have no chance in the face of this behaviour.
There is also an 80,000-tonne floating patch of waste in the Pacific Ocean, of which 46% of it is comprised of fishing gear such as netting.
The antics left many Sydney shoppers indifferent as they went about their shopping. There was a degree of antagonism and animosity towards the protesters. “These people are brain dead” was one typical Facebook comment.
The protest has received worldwide news coverage partially no doubt due to the very photogenic nature of the protest.