PETA vs. Gordon Ramsay

Pain is a funny thing- there are two parts to it- the part of the nerves picking up the sensation- be it hot, cold, pain, etc. – then there is the brain that processes the pain and says- wow, this is bad and this is miserable. Which is worse? It is the affective part- the part that bothers you, the part that makes you fear, the part that can take that stimulus and make it worse.

There are drugs that cause a disassociation of the pain sensation from the brain that processes it- ketamine, an anesthetic used on kids, and some adults, will allow a surgeon to operate on a child without the child being upset by the pain. PCP – the street drug is a chemical derivative of ketamine. People who are “high” on PCP will break restraints even if it means breaking their arms; keep running when shot- they simply do not feel the pain at the “higher level.”

As a surgeon, we rely on patients not being bothered by the affective component of pain to do our job. Morphine, Demerol, other narcotics remove the affective component of pain- patients feel the pain, but they just don’t care about it.

Some mental conditions have that dissociative element- where they feel pain, but are not bothered by it. That higher level of conscious is somehow oblivious to pain. These are the mental patients who will jump out a window, break a leg, and keep running. These patients will calmly remove their hand just to see what it looks like. The pain fibers are there- firing away, but their brain just doesn’t register it.

It is the higher function of the brain that regulates that affective component of pain, or doesn’t. It is also a part of the brain that is missing in fish. Fish feel pain- they react to pain, much like if your knee is tapped with a hammer your knee will jerk. If you put painful stimuli to a fish they will react, they will change course. But they do not have the same capacity as people do to have the affective component of pain.



Now the militant PETA group is charging after celebrity chef, and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay. PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange in a press release emailed to The Huffington Post states “It may be easier to identify with our favorite “Hell’s Kitchen” contestants than with the fish they fillet and sauté, but fish feel pain and fear, and they suffer enormously when they are impaled, crushed, suffocated, or cut open and gutted, all while they’re fully conscious.” “PETA’s ‘Silent Scream’ video tells viewers that it’s never right to hurt others simply because they are weaker than we are and can’t speak up for themselves–regardless of what species they happen to be.”

What is sad is using the term Silent Scream, to piggy back off Rachel Carlson’s classic book “Silent Spring,” because the last thing that PETA can associate with is a biologist of her stature.

Fish die – and yes, chefs kill lobster quickly, crabs quickly, and a chef doesn’t fillet a fish while it is alive, in spite of their protestations. But they do not “suffer greatly.” That is the subjective component that you would feel if you were “impaled, crushed, suffocated, or cut open and gutted, all while they’re fully conscious.” A fish does not have conscious – they do not have the nerve cells for that. Suffering is a subjective term, not objective.

PETA is committing fraud, by telling you how these fish feel. They will air a silly commercial with a fish gasping for air in a kitchen. They will ask for donations, and want to tug at your conscious by lying to you, telling you a fish has a conscious. PETA apparently doesn’t know who its friends are- Gordon Ramsay has led a mission, putting himself in harms way, with his documentary about shark fins. You can see our review of that here.

Not surprising, PETA doesn’t care about friends who care about how animals are treated, they care about a highly popular show with an iconic figure. If Gordon Ramsay were to commit a sin with fish, it isn’t beause he thinks fish have humanity, it would be because the fish were undercooked by a contestant – at which point you will hear him say – with a mildly increased volume – “Its Raw”

Halibut cheeks- one of my favorites

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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  1. Michelle Davis says:

    Thank you so much for your article. I was using twitter when I saw what PETA did to Gordon Ramsey, needless to say I don’t anymore. I thought following PETA was going to be a good thing, it wasn’t! Constantly in everyone’s face, basically bullying people into following them and demanding that people be like them. Where PETA lost me is when they attacked Chef Ramsey for no reason, no reason at all. Look, I’m not into eating animals- but bullying high profile celebrities to get one’s point across is wrong, therefore for that reason and that reason alone I quit twitter.
    MMD ATL, Georgia

  2. WLSVegan says:

    also: Do Fish Feel Pain?
    After decades of research investigating whether fish are capable of experiencing pain, whether humans cause them to suffer, and whether it even matters, Victoria Braithwaite examines this question in her new book, Do Fish Feel Pain?

    A faculty member in the college and associate director of the Penn State Institute of the Neurosciences, her research and the book have caused a firestorm of controversy among both devotees and opponents of angling. Braithwaite’s approach is dispassionate, balanced, and matter-of-fact—and she is quick to point out that she is not against sport fishing.

    She chafes at suggestions that she is a “tree hugger” or an animal-rights extremist. “I am not biased—my book gives a balanced account of the issue,” she said. “I recognize how valuable the efforts of anglers have been historically for conservation. Many fishermen are staunch stewards of the aquatic environment, guarding our waterways against pollution and degradation. We would not want to be without them or their efforts.”

    Through exhaustive experiments with fish, explained in meticulous detail in her book, she builds a compelling case that fish have the same kinds of specialized nerve fibers that mammals and birds use to detect noxious stimuli, tissue damage, and pain. And she explores the contentious concepts of whether fish are sentient beings and whether an organism must possess “awareness” to experience pain.

    “We now know that fish actually are cognitively more competent than we thought before. Some species of fish have very sophisticated forms of cognition,” she said.

    “I definitely think that we need to look at the welfare of fish,” she said. “It seemed logical to me to care about fish because agriculture in general is confronting animal-welfare issues.”

    We may be troubled by the prospect of fish feeling pain, Braithwaite conceded, but we should not let our discomfort keep us from confronting the issue because the latest scientific evidence suggests that the protections currently given to birds and mammals should be widened to include fish.

    Do Fish Feel Pain? is published by Oxford University Press and is widely available at bookstores and from online booksellers.

  3. thedoc says:

    the question is not do fish feel pain- there is no doubt they do. The question is do they suffer. That is the distinction. They do not have the neuroanatomy to suffer any more than a plant does – but they have, like plants and people- the ability to notice a noxious stimulus and move away from it – that is not suffering.

  4. WLSVegan says:

    Once again, I will site the article which I am now copying and pasting

    Underwater Suffering: Do Fish Feel Pain?
    A study suggests fish consciously experience discomfort
    By Harvey Black | September 17, 2009 | 45

    The Wisdom of Psychopaths

    Many a seafood fan has parroted the popular idea that fish and crustaceans do not feel pain or suffer. New research, however, suggests that they may, revealing that their nervous system may be more complex than we thought—and our own awareness of pain may be much more evolutionarily ancient than suspected.

    Joseph Garner of Purdue University and his colleagues in Norway report that the way goldfish respond to pain shows that these animals do experience pain consciously, RATHER THAN REACTING WITH A SIMPLE REFLEX—such as when a person recoils after stepping on a tack (jerking away before he or she is aware of the sensation). In the study, the biologists found that goldfish injected with saline solution and exposed to a painful level of heat in a test tank “hovered” in one spot when placed back in their home tank. Garner labels that “fearful, avoidance behavior.” Such behavior, he says, is cognitive—NOT REFLEXIVE. Other fish, after receiving a morphine injection that blocked the impact of pain, showed no such fearful behavior.

    Note: This article was originally printed with the title, “Underwater Suffering?”

    I don’t agree with everything that PETA does either but I do think that fish suffer AND experience pain.

  5. mhikl says:

    I remember the studies that showed that plants scream when cut or burned. If I remember correctly, their neighbours joined them in screaming, presumedly in sympathy or the fear that they were next.

    Bacteria are neither animal nor plant yet they also move away from danger. Since by the theories of PETA and the pseudo-scientist nut, Braithwaite, this proves to be from fear of pain then herbivore cows who farm bacteria and other non-animlal and non-plnats life forms to convert plants to fatty- and amino acids (proteins) for sustenance are committing the same crimes humans are doing when sacrificing a bovine and a turnip for a meal.

    Sounds like the whole scheme of life is interdependent and that death is the basis of life’s existence in all life from the simplest to the most complex life forms.

    Those who believe that fish suffer pain and that it is immoral to kill them, must accept that the lesser life forms of plants, algae, bacteria, mushrooms etc are also murdered and suffer pain. The only answer seems to be that they stand by their words and stop eating anything. This would also include drinking because there are life forms in water. And do not forget breathing. There are microscopic life forms in the air we breathe.

    The high and mighty need to have the will to follow their own sanctimonious rules.

  6. The Doc says:

    I like to differentiate pain from suffering. Or pain from cruelty. Pain is an avoidance of a stimulus that is bad- be that extreme heat, burning, or the injury of a knife. Suffering is what we, as humans, are capable of, and perhaps other higher primates – but that fish do not have the brain capacity for. Or think of it this way – we avoid the pain of our relatives, but suffering is when they live with us.

  7. The Doc says:

    Suffering is when the relative comes to live with you. Pain is when you “loan” the relative money. The experience of pain is not the same as suffering. The higher functions required for that is not the same. Plants feel pain, but they do not suffer. Avoidance of pain is not suffering – it does require processing, and that is cognitive – but that is not suffering. Morphine blocks the affective component of pain, but is also analgesic for pain – just not like aspirin is for some pain.

  8. mhikl says:

    Excellent reply, Doc; quite Buddhist and well worthy of meditation. I was, of course. trying to speak with a twist of (muddled) metaphor as you are now, only your approach is much more self-evident. You’ve added a dimension to these concepts for me. I should have read your previous entry more carefully. Namaste.

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