On Saturday, several vegan activists gathered at a popular fishing tournament to protest eating meat.
The Wilmington Fish Save and North Carolina Farmed Animal Save organized the protest, called Vigil for Fish, to raise awareness about animal rights during the annual Wrightsville Beach Inshore Challenge, which pays out over $15,000 in cash and prizes to fishermen.
“We’re vegan activists, and we want to bring awareness to what fish go through," said protester Daniel Veber to WCET. “Look at it from this fish’s point of view. If you were in your home, you would not want a hook to be hooked in the mouth, you would not want to be pulled up, you wouldn’t have to fight hours for your life to be pulled up. It’s scary.”
The ten protesters carried signs reading “Sea life not seafood,” “fish feel pain,” and “fish want to live.”
“We want to come out for the fish," said Veber to WCET. "A lot of times, they look so different from us that you don’t really put them into a position where you give them individual status, where they are actually individuals that want to live. They don’t want to pulled out of the water, fish have families, fish want to live.”
“Fishermen, in general, are probably the best stewards of the resource. They care about the resource more than anyone else. I can’t speak to perhaps their claims that fish have feelings, that fish have souls, I mean I’m not sure.”
Guy Hurley, an organizer of the fishing tournament, told WCET he respects the protestors and is “glad we live in a place where you can protest,” but claims the tournament is not unethical.
“We are very much a conservation-based tournament," said Hurley. "In fact, we provide extra payout, anglers can win extra money, if they weigh their fish in alive. So we encourage them not to kill the fish, but to weigh the fish alive. And then they get extra money, and we release the fish.”
“Fishermen, in general, are probably the best stewards of the resource," Hurley added. "They care about the resource more than anyone else. I can’t speak to perhaps their claims that fish have feelings, that fish have souls, I mean I’m not sure.”
Veber said the peaceful protest wanted to make people think about what they’re eating.
“We want to bring awareness to the consumer,” said Veber. “Is this the correct thing to be doing? Should I be doing this? Should I do a little bit more research and see how intelligent fish are, they have communities, and complex social structures?”
The fishing tournament benefits the Wilmington Elks, who "invest in their communities through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, by undertaking projects that address unmet need, and by honoring the service and sacrifice of our veterans," according to the tournament's website.
Hurley said the tournament also helps feed people in need by donating the fish they catch.
“A lot of the fish that we take, we donate to First Fruit Ministries, which is a Wilmington-based food bank that accepts whole fish, and then puts it to people in need. We feel good about what we’re doing," said Hurley to WCET.