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”
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 received his MD. Dr. Simpson, then became a renowned weight loss surgeon, and a leading advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he advocates teaching people to improve their health through their food. 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 Malcom Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska. 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 www.terrysimpson.com.