Fish leaking oilMost Americans have heard the old Vietnam-era military line about “destroying a village in order to save it.” Now we have new, 21st century variation. Slow Food USA recently featured a blog post with the title Eat Gulf Seafood.

The author of the post, Poppy Tooker, writes, “Since the oil disaster began, I have heard from Slow Food friends across the United States who ask, ‘How can we help?’  The single best way to assist your food friends of the Gulf is to EAT GULF SEAFOOD.” Yes, Tooker’s response to the needless death of marine life on an unimaginable scale is to kill more marine life.

It isn’t as if Tooker is totally ignorant of the situation: “Today, countless varieties of Gulf fin fish are hugely threatened, including linchpins of our local menus like speckled trout and redfish.” If various fish are indeed “hugely threatened,” (which they are) that would seem like a good reason not to eat them.

While Tooker seems particularly concerned about whether or not she’ll be able to eat her favorite seafood in the future, she doesn’t seem to care a bit about how individual marine life have been impacted by the BP oil spill. One person who does care about our fishy friends is Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.

In a post on Psychology Today‘s blog, Balcombe asks, “How is the quality of life for individual fishes being impacted by this latest marine ecological disaster?” In looking for an answer, Balcombe notes, “we don’t usually think of fishes as sentient individuals.” Yet, “new research shows that fishes have minds and feelings. Rigorous scientific studies show that they experience pain, that they cooperate, and that they have individual preferences. Fishes monitor the behavior of others and some even form image scores based on their observations.” In other words, fish are thinking, feeling creatures just like most animals.

Jonathan Balcombe doesn’t claim to know what the fish of the Gulf are feeling in the wake of a petroleum fueled apocalypse that has wreaked havoc on their home, but he does suspect “there are many sick and dying fishes swimming in the gulf these days.”

Giving her the benefit of the doubt, one could make the argument that Poppy Tooker is encouraging the consumption of Gulf seafood as a way to economically benefit the people of the region. Alas, this is faulty reasoning. According to a report on National Public Radio, the seafood industry makes up about one percent of Louisiana’s economy. The oil business accounts for 16 percent. Using Tooker’s logic, the real way to help Louisiana’s people wouldn’t be to eat more of their seafood, but to use more oil. So skip buying the crawfish and take the SUV out for a spin.

Seriously, a better way to help those affected by the BP oil spill would be to make donations to charities working in the area. Killing more marine life because so much marine life has been killed just doesn’t make sense.

Photo Credit: Jeff Warren

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