There’s more to fish than you think. According to a recent article in The New York Times, fish who float around lifelessly at the bottom of the tank are suffering from depression.
Julian Pittman, a professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Troy University in Alabama, works with zebrafish to develop ways to treat depression. His research has found that fish suffering from depression are very similar to humans. He says, “The neurochemistry is so similar that it’s scary.”
According to Professor Pittman, it’s easy to gauge the severity of the depression a fish suffers from. It can be measured by the amount of time spent at the top versus the bottom of the tank. He has found that depressed zebrafish are similar to clinically depressed people, losing interest in just about everything, including food, toys, and exploration.
Pittman’s findings are supported by the research of other scientists. Culum Brown, a behavioral biologist at Macquarie University in Sydney and an expert in fish cognition, agrees that it is easy to tell when a fish is depressed. He says: “Depressed people are withdrawn. The same is true of fish.”
This isn’t the first time depression in fish has made headlines. Last year, a study by Royal Society Open Science revealed that farmed salmon suffer from severe depression. According to the study, many salmon at fish factory farms appear to give up and float lifelessly in their enclosures. These depressed fish are known as “drop outs.”
Just like land animals, fish are intelligent and sensitive beings. An article by Vox detailed a multitude of fish abilities, including their abilities to "learn from each other, recognize other fish they've spent time with previously, know their place within fish social hierarchies, and remember complex spatial maps of their surroundings." Similarly, a study published in Nature Scientific Reports found that fish look out for each other when searching for food.
Scientists worldwide have noted time and again that fish experience pain. They even compare fish to dogs, cats, and other animals in the way they feel pleasure.
Sadly, the seafood industry treats fish as mere objects. A 2011 Mercy For Animals undercover investigation at a fish slaughter facility exposed fish being skinned alive. As the fish gasped for oxygen, their skin was ripped off with pliers. They thrashed and fought to escape the workers' knives.
You can take a stand against the blatant abuse of these amazing beings and other animals by leaving meat, dairy, and eggs off your plate. Click here to learn more about switching to a compassionate vegan diet. And check out these cruelty-free, sea-inspired recipes.