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PETA is asking for signatures to help stop people from "hunting sea kittens" at Pescadero State Beach.
Nobody wants to harm animals. Especially something cute, cuddly and comforting like a cat or dog. But what about fish? Can they provide as much companionship as Man's Best Friend?
One of the most politically-active animal rights group is hoping so and trying to appeal to our compassion for pets as a way to keep a state beach here in the Bay Area from closing.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is offering to pay out of pocket to help keep Pescadero State Beach, slated for closure under the budget plan, from getting the axe. The group launched a campaign called "Save the Sea Kittens" and sent a letter to California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman saying that if the state renames the beach to "Sea Kitten" State Beach and bans fishing from the shoreline, they will contribute to keep the beach open.
What's a Sea Kitten, you ask? Think bass, trout, perch. That's right, a sea kitten is a fish.
PETA believes rebranding the beach with an adorable name will also get anglers to stop hooking.
"If Pescadero State Beach became Sea Kitten State Beach, fewer of these gentle animals would be painfully hooked and mutilated for 'sport,'" says Ashley Byrne, PETA's Sea Kittens campaign coordinator. "Whether they are catfish or cats, bass or basset hounds, all animals deserve lives free from needless pain."
The debate over whether fish actually feel pain is still up in the air.
Morphine-injected fish were less active than non-drugged fish when hooked in lab experiments, says George Matsumoto, senior education and research specialist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
"Fish probably do feel pain," Matsumoto said, "but not the way we do. We have no concept of what a fish brain is thinking."
Matsumoto, an avid fisherman, says that while he appreciates the effort to bring awareness to overfishing and the damage it can cause, he doesn't think renaming the beach will actually help people think about fish as anything more than the finned creatures that they are. Or a meal on the table.
One thing is for sure, if the fish are trying to save themselves, they have just recruited the best public relations group they can get for their cause.
Photo courtesy dbaron