Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Today I went on a "field trip" to a fish hatchery. I put field trip in quotes because when most people think of field trips they think happy thoughts, good times, great memories. That's not how it went today.

We were there to learn how to spawn steelhead which are then raised in the hatchery and released for sport fishing. The process goes like this: First the females are put into a tub with electrodes. Electricity is applied until they are unconscious. They are then lifted out of the water and an 18 gauge needle is stuck into their abdomen that is attached to a pressurized airline. The abdomen is filled with air which forces the eggs out. The eggs are caught in a bread loaf pan on a table. The unconscious fish is tossed back into the water. Next a male is removed from the water. He is clubbed, in theory, to death on the floor then the sperm is milked out of him. His body is thrown out the window into a pile on the ground.

I refused to participate. The instructor, disappointed and possibly angry, said "you're going to have to kill something sometime." I rolled my eyes. I stepped outside to avoid ridicule and realized that many of the male fish lying on the ground were still alive. I told one of the hatchery workers and he came out and half-heartedly clubbed one again. It was still moving. While it may have just been postmortem nerve reflexes, it still unsettled me so I spent the next hour cutting the heads off the fish as they were tossed out the window to ensure they were dead rather than have them suffocate to death. The knife they gave me was dull and it took all my strength to cut through.

So, honestly, I don't know if I killed anything today but it still felt as bad, if not worse, than any euthanasia I've ever performed.

21 Comments:

OpenID eriko said...

You are honorable. Remember that.

2/18/2009  
Blogger Julie said...

Oh my goodness, that is horrific and inhumane! I am glad you were there that day to provide at least some mercy.

2/19/2009  
Blogger manuelg said...

Thank you for taking such care.

A Leatherman tool on your belt means a sharp knife is always handy.

Bless you, and thank you again.

2/19/2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did the right thing, and hopefully made an impression on the others. Still, it's too bad you had to go through that.

2/19/2009  
Blogger Linda said...

I am a vegan, and I hate hearing about these kinds of horrible mistreatments of our fellow creatures. You did the right thing. Thank you for refusing to participate in this ridiculous slaughter, and for being there to put some of those poor fishes out of their misery. People think that just because fish don't scream they can't feel. Their nervous systems are every bit as complex as our own. You are doing such a great service in your work to end animal suffering. :)

2/19/2009  
Anonymous sue said...

I am so sorry this happened to you, and the fish. Thanks for sharing your story, as sad as it is.

2/25/2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that such processes exist horrifies me. What you did was lovely for those fish, fish that most people consider worthless. Thank you for giving those fish an honorable death.

2/27/2009  
Blogger denta said...

thank you for writing this

i myself sometimes go fishing with my dad. i have since i was a small girl. but my dad is a good man and always taught me to treat the fish i catch with respect and kill them quickly and as painless as possible. also, only to catch as many as i plan to eat and not any more. i do throw fish back in the water, if they are too small to be caught, but first i make sure the hook is out of their mouth and that the little wound will heal. sometimes you catch a fish and it's too small, but the hook hurt him badly and you know it is better to kill him to spare him suffering. if i have to do that, i am always very sad. generally, it is a sad thing to kill animals. my dad always refuses to eat any fish he caught and leaves them to us, my mum and me. he says that he just cannot eat fish he caught: they were equal competitors who fought against each other. sometimes the fish wins and escapes. but if my dad, the fisherman, wins, he honors the fish's fight by not eating him and thanking god for giving him the fish. it makes him proud to catch a beatiful fish and it makes us happy to be able to eat such a nice meal.

i hope you don't think me cruel for writing this. i just want to say that there's people out there like me and my dad. we don't fish because we need to in order to survive. but nevertheless we treat the fish we catch with respect and dignity and spare them from any unnecessary suffering. always.

2/28/2009  
Blogger denta said...

by the way, when i was small, i had many gold fish. some lived for over 6 years. i loved them dearly, made their aquarium big and nice and full of plants and cried everytime one died.

when my favourite gold fish had a tumor, which caused him pain, i asked my dad to end his suffering. he took my fish, went into the bathroom and came back a minute later with the dead little body. he had used a big sharp needle to stab him in the heart because this is the quickest way to kill them. he didnt want to cut his head off because i wanted to see the fish when he was dead. when my dad came out again to show me the dead fish, he was crying.

2/28/2009  
Blogger Tragedian said...

That is chilling. How painful it must have been for you. How disrespecful of life that is, and how respectful of life you are to have killed the ones you did. Thank you for sharing that.

3/02/2009  
Blogger kat said...

I commented on this blog about a year ago when I first found it to say how decent it was that you wrote about things like this and how much I wasn't looking forward to having to put my own dog to sleep.

That time sadly came to pass. My best friend got a very aggressive cancer in her mouth and nose and about two weeks after getting her diagnosis, I had to put her down as she was beginning to suffer.

So I wanted to reiterate my appreciation for how you approach your job with such professionalism and decency. The vets and techs that worked with me were all excellent people that were so empathetic with me and the decision that I had to make. I really do feel as though people who work with animals provide more humane service than those who work with humans.

3/04/2009  
Blogger Happy Camper said...

It's not the death, but the cruelty of the killer. I spent my younger life on a farm.. I learned there I didn't care to eat meat, ever. I was 7 at the time, and 10 decades later, my appetite hasn't returned for meat.
I saw animals killed in all manner of ways, some humane, some not. But there was a respect for the animals that fed my people, I have had several animals put down over all these years, and each one has been worthy of respect and treated like the friend they had become. Perhaps you can't do that with a hundred fish, but they could have tried......I had never thought about a hatchery before; I probably won't be able to get this one out of my mind.

3/17/2009  
Blogger Janice said...

God bless you.

4/07/2009  
Blogger John Ryan said...

Killing something to spare it's suffering is a very noble thing. I know it feels bad but it was right.
Once my dog broke the back of an opossum; it was lying on the ground bleeding and I knew it was suffering horribly. The only thing I felt I could do was put it out as fast as I could.
It's an awful thing to feel you've taken a life even one as small as a fish or opossum.

5/19/2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a good person. If you'd told me that story to my face, I would have shaken your hand.

5/29/2009  
Blogger Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

Thank you.
You might like to read this considering you inspired it.

http://fourpawsandwhiskers.blogspot.com/2009/07/animal-euthanasia-and-human-emotional.html

7/05/2009  
Blogger nicole said...

What a great "sport". *eyeroll*

Proud of you.

7/05/2009  
Blogger Kittinish said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I can only hope you haven't posted again because you haven't had to euthanize any more animals, but I know that's probably not the case.

I hope you're well. Your blog really affected me. Thank you.

7/18/2009  
Anonymous I have no name said...

I think what they did to you was wrong

11/15/2009  
Blogger 123 123 said...

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11/18/2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i used to be a commercial fisherman, i worked from alaska to hawaii.when i first started i couldnt sleep because of nightmares of gasping fish staring at me. the other guys had no such problems getting to sleep and were often amazingly cruel. the real horror to me was the day when i found myself amused by their cruelty and i knew that from then on i would sleep well. stay true to your values and you wont have regrets like mine.

12/12/2010  

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