Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Fish Empathy Project

One of the amazing things about living in a wired world is that you can always be surprised. Just when you think you’re getting too jaded, that you’ve seen it all, lo and behold, some wacko comes crawling out of the woodwork (or, in this case, the fish tank), with a new and better fish story that can’t be topped. Until, that is, the next wacko.

Okay, your host, El Jefe Maximo¸ undisputed ruler of the Kingdom of Chaos, would not make this up. It’s too crazy even for El Jefe on tequila. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have come up with (brace yourselves, be sitting down) – the (roll of drums)…

“Fish Empathy Project.”

Yes, you are reading correctly. The craziness does not lie with your screen. Well, maybe it does, but you know what I mean.

According to the AP, in a story dated today, the PETA ‘s “Fish Empathy Project” seeks to teach us philistines that fish “are intelligent, sensitive animals no more deserving of being eaten than a pet dog or cat.” PETA’s “Director of Vegan Outreach” tells us that “[o]nce people start to understand that fish, although they come in different packaging, are just as intelligent, they’ll stop eating them.”

Yes, we’re all alike you see. Start up the tambourines, sing “Kumbaya.” Smoke a joint, and maybe break into Billy Bragg’s “The Many Not the Few” (see last post).

To their credit, the PETA recognize that they face an uphill battle, says the AP story. “Fish are so misunderstood because they’re so far removed from our daily lives” says the Empathy Project manager. “They’re such interesting, fascinating individuals, yet they’re so incredibly abused.”

Hmmmm, maybe they have a point. Maybe Fish Empathy, instead of Blackened Redfish with cayenne, lemon and garlic, and a decent chardonnay, is really the way to go.

Okay, lets do a law school exercise, a hypothetical. Assume a fish pond. Assume this fish pond is on one of El Jefe’s numerous estates, lovingly and carefully maintained by his legions of diligent servants. El Jefe you see, is a beneficent master, and the fish on his estates are fed the finest natural organic fish food (no meat or dairy products for El Jefe’s fish !), bought only from independent distributors, and not from multi-national corporations. In any case, El Jefe, having enjoyed a Cosmo or four and a cigar and being convinced by one of his comely companions to “grow spiritually” and show empathy for the fish, repairs to the shores of the fish pond, and the following transpires:

El Jefe: “Hey fishes…”


El Jefe: “Yes, you, little bitty fishes. PETA tells me that you’re complex, fascinating, and misunderstood.”


El Jefe: “Ya know, I was just thinking. I’ve been wrong. Like that article said, I’ve been dismissing you as ‘dimwitted pea-brains.’ I know I’m wrong now. I know that, in the vastness of the universe, ya’ll are really quite interesting and misunderstood, and far removed from my daily life.”


El Jefe: “Just to show you I’ve turned over a new leaf, I’m gonna, like try to empathise with you more before I go fishing. In fact, I’m gonna sing the Barney song, or something equally nicey-nice, before I go fishing, from now on. How do you like that ?”


El Jefe: “Good. Glad we got that straight. I feel better now. I’m sure you do too.”

(El Jefe leaves, stage left, in a cloud of cigar smoke, singing “Kumbaya,” as the mist, or something, starts to get pretty thick).

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