From the LA Times:
On behalf of the animal rights group PETA, an Irvine woman is asking the city to erect a memorial at the street corner where 1,600 pounds of fish died this month when a container truck crashed into two other vehicles.
Dina Kourda, a volunteer with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote to the Irvine Public Works Department to request that a sign be placed at Walnut and Yale avenues to honor the lives of the fish — believed to be saltwater bass — lost in the accident.
The fish had been stored in large tanks that cracked open as a result of the Oct. 11 accident. When firefighters opened the back of the truck, some fish flopped out, and others had already died. None of the people in the accident were seriously injured.
"Although such signs are traditionally reserved for human fatalities, I hope you'll make an exception because of the enormous suffering involved in this case, in order to remind drivers that all animals — whether they're humans, basset hounds or bass — value their lives and feel pain," Kourda wrote.
A few scattered thoughts:
1) The part about fish feeling pain is an unsettled question that I don't expect we'll be able to answer anytime soon, but in the treatment of all animals I would err on the side of assuming some sort of pain experience that I wouldn't want them to suffer. As a flesh eater, I want any suffering to be minimized.
2) I do think the idea that fish value their lives is an absurd attribution of conscious, cognitive function to fish.
3) Reminding drivers of their living cargo is utterly unnecessary. The profit motive takes care of that. Drivers don't want to spill fish or cows onto the roadway. The owners of the animals headed to slaughter would not appreciate that.
4) Perhaps PETA doesn't expect a memorial to be placed and they simply want publicity, but I wonder if this backfires in a public relations sense. I don't know. Just wondering. Raising awareness and changing public opinion is complicated.
From when I was age four to age thirteen, my family lived just a block from the docks where many fishing vessels brought in their catch from the Atlantic. I spent a lot of time there watching the activity, including at the dockside markets where the catch was unloaded and sold to both individual buyers and commercial buyers. I'm not so sure that falling off a truck is any worse. I saw thousands of fish flop to death before they ever made it to a truck with tanks.
BTW, I saw photos this morning of our old neighborhood underwater. The same thing happened when I was four. We took a couple of feet of water in the basement and small boats were riding in the streets. I thought that was just about the best thing I'd ever seen and couldn't understand why my mother was kind of freaked out.