In the Netherlands alone we catch over 4 billion fish every single year. This is almost 8 times more than the 640 million cows, chickens, lambs and pigs we slaughter. Still, the public debate is mostly focused on eating less meat and not per se about eating less fish, let alone about the well-being of fish. What causes this hypocrisy? 

Table of Contents

Why it sucks to be a fish and look like one

3. No meat, no fish? What is left?

- Zeewaar
- The Dutch Weedburger


We’ve all met the vegetarian who casually mentions that he or she eats fish. Logic aside, it’s a fairly common mindset with arguments based on ethics, environmentalism, and health. We feed this mindset with documentaries like Cowspiracy, about cow fart clouds that contain climate-destroying methane gas. Or movies like Okja, in which we are confronted with the absurdity of cruelly killing animals. We give voice to this problem in many different ways. The public debate about the meat industry is a hot topic.

And let’s be honest, that’s great! But the way we catch our fish, which is a fundamental part of the bio-industry, causes catastrophic depletion of entire wild populations. Yet it is still, generally speaking, a public non-issue. Let’s take a deep dive and figure out if this is a problem and what causes our lack of attention.

Is this a problem

Yes. Mainly because of two things. One: We disrupt the ecosystem. Two: There’s less fish. The price that has to be paid for these actions comes to the account of people in the poorer regions of the world. Fish is the primary source of food and income and when it’s no longer available, it will get those people into trouble. This is what we’ve seen happening the past couple of years. De Correspondent even explained that the initial rise in 2005 of unemployed fishermen in Somalia was the main contributor to the rise of piracy in the region. Instead of fishing, most fishermen are desperately seeking for other ways to feed their families.

Once you know this, it might seem obvious. Overfishing does have major consequences, but why are the problems with the fish industry still not as salient as the meat industry?

Why do we care less about fish?

There are multiple possible reasons why we couldn’t care less:

1. We’re too different.
Fish don’t invoke the same compassionate response as a calf, lamb, piglet, or duck does. We are mammals, and relate much better to other mammals. When you see a pig get slaughtered you’ll feel uncomfortable, whereas a fish being thrown back into the sea without fins will evoke fewer emotions.

2. Fish don’t feel.
This rumor has been around for ages, even though there’s plenty of research that proofs the opposite. Fish do feel. A common way to catch fish is through trawl netting. And that’s pretty gruesome. Imagine. You’re swimming around and suddenly you’re getting ripped from the ocean together with hundreds of others. When you reach the surface you’ll all slowly suffocate. Terrible. Can we catch and kill fish more humanely? Yes. Should we? Probably, yes. Why don’t we do it? As with many problems, the alternatives are too expensive.

3. It’s healthy!
There is a public conscious of fish as being healthy. The main reason people stop eating red meat is because of health reasons. Scrapping fish out of your diet wouldn’t be the first thing you do when considering a healthier diet.

 

4. They live in the middle of nowhere.
Fish swim in the sea (how surprisingly), cows and other animals live their lives in your surrounding. That is why we feel more connected to those animals than to those swimming somewhere deep in the ocean.

1. We’re too different.
Fish don’t invoke the same compassionate response as a calf, lamb, piglet, or duck does. We are mammals, and relate much better to other mammals. When you see a pig get slaughtered you’ll feel uncomfortable, whereas a fish being thrown back into the sea without fins will evoke fewer emotions.

2. Fish don’t feel.
This rumor has been around for ages, even though there’s plenty of research that proofs the opposite. Fish do feel. A common way to catch fish is through trawl netting. And that’s pretty gruesome. Imagine. You’re swimming around and suddenly you’re getting ripped from the ocean together with hundreds of others. When you reach the surface you’ll all slowly suffocate. Terrible. Can we catch and kill fish more humanely? Yes. Should we? Probably, yes. Why don’t we do it? As with many problems, the alternatives are too expensive.

3. It’s healthy!
There is a public conscious of fish as being healthy. The main reason people stop eating red meat is because of health reasons. Scrapping fish out of your diet wouldn’t be the first thing you do when considering a healthier diet.

 

4. They live in the middle of nowhere.
Fish swim in the sea (how surprisingly), cows and other animals live their lives in your surrounding. That is why we feel more connected to those animals than to those swimming somewhere deep in the ocean.

No meat, no fish? What is left?

No more meat. No more fish. What’s left for us? The answer to this question might be more satisfying than you expect: a lot! There are many plants around that are definitely worth a bite. For example seaweed, packed with iron, calcium, magnesium, and protein that makes this food undeniable nutrient. There’s even a type of seaweed called dulse that tastes like bacon. But the best is yet to come. Seaweed is one of the very few foods that can have a positive environmental impact. How? It removes toxins from seawater as it grows. Farming seaweed has been shown to potentially have a negative carbon footprint, absorbing 20% more carbon dioxide than it produces. It’s the holy grail of the vegetables, a real superfood. 

Already craving some?

Luckily there are entrepreneurs that do care about the ocean and its inhabitants and at the same time produce mouth-watering seafood. 

Zeewaar
Pioneers Jennifer Breaton and Rebecca Wiering started the first seaweed farm in the Netherlands in 2013. Order 100,000 kg seaweed (you can order as much as you want), learn how to cook with it and discover why the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, chose them as one of the most innovative companies in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Weedburger
It all started with a vegan (non-fish) cookbook. The author, Lisette Kreischer, immediately fell in love with seaweed. To quench her thirst, she and Mark shot a documentary on their quest for the most delicious seaweed recipe. Shortly after they decided to create “The Dutch Weed Burger, Bites, and Bagel. All of them with seaweed as the key ingredient. Wondering what that tastes like?

Let's give your opinion!

After reading this article, what do you think about eating fish?
One more question: Do you care more about Nemo or about The Black Beauty?



Kim Pillen

Creative Concept Strategist at Lap.

Every company with impact deserves a story with impact.