Published August 15, 2002
LOS ANGELES – For many Americans, "fishing" conjures up images of a quiet lake or gentle stream with man and nature at peace.
But not everybody sees it that way.
"We're trying to get fishing banned in all state parks," PETA’s Bruce Friedrich said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says fishing is a violent and cruel sport that victimizes the innocent inhabitants of the nation's waterways. They've initiated a campaign demanding states ban the time-honored sport.
"They have the capacity to feel pain. They have a capacity to suffer," Friedrich said. "For reasons that really defy logic, we allow people to spend their afternoon impaling them on hooks."
Fisherman have cast their own barbs.
"They eat each other and they die," fisherman Anthony Young said. "Is that cruelty?"
Fishing is not permitted in state parks in about half of the states, but none of the rest have taken PETA's bait. At least nine, including California and Washington, have said "no."
It’s a sentiment echoed by anglers.
"Our God-given right as Americans is to fish the rivers and streams," Kevin Hanson said. "It's where memories are built."
Other conservation groups like Trout Unlimited say PETA’s plan is too extreme. Trout Unlimited’s William Strickland said falling for PETA’s reasoning is like falling for the story of the big fish that got away.
"To base a campaign on whether or not a fish feels pain is, quite frankly, a stretch," he said.
PETA said that hunting has been banned, and even removing trees and rocks is illegal, so fishing is a natural next step. And not just because it's cruel to fish.
"The filament lines are everywhere, the sinkers are everywhere, the beer cans are everywhere -- not exactly responsible stewardship," Friedrich said.
Fishermen respond that a few bad apples are no reason to spoil everyone's fun, and they have a message for PETA:
"Everyone wants to get in everyone else's business but their own," Young said. "Leave me alone. Let me enjoy my fishing."