PETA and Fishing


PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is a non-profit organisation that campaigns for animal rights. While it is based in the USA, PETA operates worldwide and claims to have nine million members. The following statement from PETA’s website sets out the organisation’s aims:

“Like humans, animals are capable of suffering and have interests in leading their own lives; therefore, they are not ours to use – for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation or any other reason. PETA and our affiliates around the world educate policymakers and the public about cruelty to animals and promote an understanding of the right of all animals to be treated with respect.”

PETA came to prominence in the early 1980s with campaigns against fur farming, animal testing and circus animals being kept in cruel conditions. Since then PETA has gained a reputation for using controversial campaigns and attention attention-grabbing tactics to draw attention to its cause. These have included a 2003 campaign which compared modern agriculture to the Holocaust, PETA members dressing as the Ku Klux Klan to protest at a dog show in 2009 and an advertising board campaign in 2014 which made the baseless claim that there was a link between consuming milk and autism. Despite these controversies, a wide range of celebrities have supported the organisation over the years, allowing PETA to command public attention on a global basis.

Dwarf chicken midget protest
A typical attention-grabbing protest saw PETA send “a troupe of little people in chicken suits” to Times Square in New York to protest against McDonald’s allegedly cruel treatment of chickens.

PETA have often turned their attention to fishing and have launched numerous campaigns and initiatives which are aimed at turning people against fishing and with the ultimate aim of getting the sport banned. Actions taken by PETA include:

  • The image used on the advertising board in Aberdeen [reproduced here under fair use].
    Paying for a large advertising board to be displayed along the Great Northern Road in Aberdeen which portrayed the silhouette of a man holding a fishing rod in a phallic manner. The text of the advert read: ‘Are You Overcompensating for Something?’ The advert was put up to coincide with National Fishing month and Aberdeen was chosen due to its popularity as a fishing destination.
  • Running a campaign (presumably tongue in cheek) to have fish re-branded as ‘sea kittens’ to make the public more receptive to banning fishing. Fishing would correspondingly be renamed sea kitten hunting.
  • Produced (photoshopped) posters of dogs with fishing hooks in their mouths with the text reading: “If you wouldn’t do this to a dog, why do it to a fish?”
  • In 2010 PETA arranged for two young women to dress as “topless mermaids” in Nottingham’s Old Market Square holding signs reading ‘Fishing Hurts.’ Two other PETA activists handed out leaflets explaining how cruel angling was to the crowd that gathered.
  • Created a billboard advert featuring an image of a large shark with a human leg protruding from its mouth. The accompanying text read: “PAYBACK IS HELL, Go Vegan.” PETA aimed to place the billboard on a beach in Florida in the area where a 21-year-old man had been seriously injured in a shark attack. See the image which was on the billboard by clicking here.
  • Proposed to place a banner reading “What’s that pong?: Fishing stinks, go vegan” on the side of a disused toilet which overlooks the sea at a popular fishing mark in Sheringham, Norfolk. The local council rejected the plans.
  • In 2011 PETA began a campaign called “Don’t Let Your Kids Become Hookers” aimed at stopping parents from encouraging their children to take up fishing.
  • Launched the Fish’s Life comic book series for children. In the comic anthropomorphic fish explain how both commercial fishing and catch-and-release recreational fishing are harmful to fish and the children featured in the story decide to give up fishing – read the comic here.
  • In 2023 PETA set up an electronic billboard outside of a fish and chip shop in Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire. It showed a fishmonger holding a fish when seen from one angle, but this changed to a cat as the viewer’s perspective changed. Text underneath the image read “Sea things in a different light. Respect all life. Go vegan.” PETA said that they were making the argument that as people wouldn’t eat cats, they also shouldn’t eat fish.

PETA’s policies on seafood and fishing can be read on the organisation’s website here.

PETA protest and poster
Left, a PETA against the wearing and trading of fur products, and right, a 2003 pamphlet which was criticised for using unsuitable images in an anti-fur campaign. Images: PETA/PETA photos via Wikimedia Commons.

While PETA’s campaigns against fishing have so far appeared to have gained little traction and have mostly been met with confusion and bemusement by the public, they do underline how the organisation is willing to invest significant resources into turning the public against angling. Anglers must remain vigilant of these campaigns, and always be ready to promote and defend responsible sea angling.