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A few questions about fishing

Hi, this is something that has been on my mind for quite some time. First, I would like to say that I realize that some Buddhists eat fish and/or fish for a living but I also know that non-harm and non-killing are part of the precepts. Bascially, what started this internal debate within myself was when I read in a dharma book years ago that as Buddhists we should refuse if our children ask for a gun to shoot birds or a fishing pole to catch fish.

Well, I've never been a hunter and I hate guns, but I've always loved to fish. I feel a deep connection to it - it seems very fufilling to me, not just a hobby or a way to get food. In fact, I almost never keep the fish I catch but try to release them back into the water with as little harm done as possible. However, I know that the fish is fighting for its life and is in a tremendous amount of fear and stress and of course sometimes you will hook the fish in the eye or deep in the throat even if you are not trying to harm it.

Many people say that fish do not have nerve endings in their mouths and thus do not feel pain but I don't believe that this is true. Even if it is not true pain, I know that the fish is terrified and can even die from shock after you release him. Surely this must generate negative karma for the person who causes the animal so much distress.

In the past, I have even gone as far as fishing without a hook - just a lure such as a plastic worm affixed to a swivel on the end of my line. The thrill for me is just enticing the animal to bite. I never use live bait, always artifical, but even this is teasing the animal - causing it to think that it has food and then scaring it when it feels something strange in its mouth. I can't help but wonder if even fishing without a hook doesn't produce some bad karma.

I haven't fished for a few years, mainly because I had moved away to a large city where there was no fishing available but now that I have moved back home and it is spring, I've been feeling a strong urge to go fishing. Like I said, I release what I catch back into the wild and always try to handle them properly but I still can't help but feel bad for the fish and part of me wants to quit fishing for good.

I guess my main question is just how bad is it to go fishing for sport? Can anyone share any insights?
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Comments

  • robotrobot Veteran
    You have described the draw backs of catch and release fishing. The fish suffers undue stress which kills a percentage of those released even if they swim away. Other injuries cause immediate death or death later from loss of blood or predation due to weakness.
    Fishing for pleasure makes no sense. If someone loves the outdoors, there is no need to torment the wildlife while enjoying yourself.
    Getting pleasure from fishing for food make sense. Providing for the family and all that. Also the satisfaction of feeding yourself without buying farmed products. The thrill of the hunt.
    That said, I kill many fish each year for my living. Some of the money I earn winds up being spent on my pleasure. So my opinion on this should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    I fish. We do it for food primarily but I enjoy the bonding with my dad and my kids, too. I have been fishing with my dad since I was 2 years old and if I suddenly refused to go, it would hurt his feelings a lot. He supported our family by hunting and fishing for many years when he was laid off from his job, so for him it was a matter of supporting the family.

    It is something I struggle with as well, I feel bad for the bait and bad for the fish even though they nourish us. I will likely get to a point that I decide not to fish, but as I eat meat, I would rather take on the karma for catching the fish I catch and know where and how it came to my plate than to buy fish at the store, from fish that never lived wild, were farmed, fed corn and so on. I'm not saying that is the right way, it is just what works for me right now. Even fishing for food, a lot of them are put back. We have limits on the size and type of fish we can catch, so they have to be released, and we only keep what we can eat.

    I struggle a lot with the pros and cons of catching your own food or buying it. I am not a vegetarian so I have to do one or the other, and I think it is easier to respect the animal and where it comes from when you take it yourself rather than the misery they go through before they are slaughtered and brought to the store. Plus you remove the middle man of someone making a profit off the animal's miserable life and the damage to the environment to package and transport it.

    If I am accruing karma by fishing or hunting (we hunt grouse and my son hunts deer) then I accept that. It might not be "right" in the karmic universe but it is easier for me to take than supporting factory farming. It is not feasible where I live to be a year round vegetarian and it's not a step I am quite ready to take yet, for numerous reasons. Because of that, I accept my responsibility in being a meat eater and I try to minimize the harm and waste in every way I can.
    Invincible_summerCinorjerperson
  • jlljll Veteran
    the buddha was very clear about not killing.
    the fish wants to live just like you n me.

    when africans were used as slaves, many people
    argued that they were not really humans.
    now we know better.

    find other less harmful hobbies.
    i used to go fishng n i ate the fish i caught.
    but now, i know better.
    i have other hobbies.
    rivercane said:

    Hi, this is something that has been on my mind for quite some time. First, I would like to say that I realize that some Buddhists eat fish and/or fish for a living but I also know that non-harm and non-killing are part of the precepts. Bascially, what started this internal debate within myself was when I read in a dharma book years ago that as Buddhists we should refuse if our children ask for a gun to shoot birds or a fishing pole to catch fish.

    Well, I've never been a hunter and I hate guns, but I've always loved to fish. I feel a deep connection to it - it seems very fufilling to me, not just a hobby or a way to get food. In fact, I almost never keep the fish I catch but try to release them back into the water with as little harm done as possible. However, I know that the fish is fighting for its life and is in a tremendous amount of fear and stress and of course sometimes you will hook the fish in the eye or deep in the throat even if you are not trying to harm it.

    Many people say that fish do not have nerve endings in their mouths and thus do not feel pain but I don't believe that this is true. Even if it is not true pain, I know that the fish is terrified and can even die from shock after you release him. Surely this must generate negative karma for the person who causes the animal so much distress.

    In the past, I have even gone as far as fishing without a hook - just a lure such as a plastic worm affixed to a swivel on the end of my line. The thrill for me is just enticing the animal to bite. I never use live bait, always artifical, but even this is teasing the animal - causing it to think that it has food and then scaring it when it feels something strange in its mouth. I can't help but wonder if even fishing without a hook doesn't produce some bad karma.

    I haven't fished for a few years, mainly because I had moved away to a large city where there was no fishing available but now that I have moved back home and it is spring, I've been feeling a strong urge to go fishing. Like I said, I release what I catch back into the wild and always try to handle them properly but I still can't help but feel bad for the fish and part of me wants to quit fishing for good.

    I guess my main question is just how bad is it to go fishing for sport? Can anyone share any insights?

    seeker242person
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    jll said:

    the buddha was very clear about not killing.
    the fish wants to live just like you n me.

    when africans were used as slaves, many people
    argued that they were not really humans.
    now we know better.

    find other less harmful hobbies.
    i used to go fishng n i ate the fish i caught.
    but now, i know better.
    i have other hobbies.


    Other than your implication that fish might someday be found to be human (ahem), I agree with your advice.

    If one is a carnivore and accepts "carnivorism", then fishing for food is acceptable.

    However, fishing for sport seems cruel to me...just as any form of hunting for sport.

    how
  • The old chestnut about fish not having nerves in their mouths, or not feeling "true" pain are utterly ridiculous. They are chordate animals with a very highly developed nervous system, just as sensitive - perhaps more so in many ways - than ours. People who make up trash like that are trying to gloss over their guilty feelings for harming the fish
    how
  • howhow Veteran
    edited April 2013
    Catch and release sport fishing just gob smacks me for it's lack of empathy. What would you go through if a powerful predator had hooked you and was reeling you in to an environment that meant your suffocation? Pranking fish is just sadism, plain & simple.
    JeffreySillyPutty
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    Fishing for sport is a not a very nice action. It's always better to stop doing not nice actions.
  • Thank you all for your responses. It's given me a lot to think about.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    What about it do you enjoy? You might be able to take those things and turn them into something else. My husband grew up in a farming and hunting family but he does not like to do those activities. However, he found he missed partaking in them just the same. He found that instead of tracking animals to kill them or taking care of the farm animals to send them to slaughter, he takes pictures of them. The photos we have hanging around our house are much better "trophies" than the animal hanging dead on our wall would be. Not that that is what you do with the fish, just sayin'. There are a lot of things you can do outside, on the water, involving wildlife etc that don't involve hurting them for no good reason. Perhaps you might find something that gets you the best of both worlds. Just the fact that you are thinking in such terms and asking the questions seems to say you are not comfortable with it.
    rivercane
  • Mountains said:

    The old chestnut about fish not having nerves in their mouths, or not feeling "true" pain are utterly ridiculous. They are chordate animals with a very highly developed nervous system, just as sensitive - perhaps more so in many ways - than ours. People who make up trash like that are trying to gloss over their guilty feelings for harming the fish

    Actually, I looked into this a bit and the fact that they have nerves in and around the mouth and/or anywhere on the body is one thing- but it's a whole other thing to have the brain functions and neuroreceptors to process nerve reaction into "pain". That - according to several of the latest studies - they don't have.
    It would be comparable to the doctor hitting your knee with that little hammer thing, and your leg jumps. Those are nerve reactions.... but it doesn't cause pain, does it?

    All that aside, I don't believe in sport fishing, at all. However, I do think it's OK to eat fish one catches themselves or by someone else.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    Does a fish really have a desire to live though? Do all animals? I'm not saying they don't, I'm curious if there has been further development in that area. It's clear some mammals and other animals are much more perceptive and self-aware than others. Does a fish (or insect or whatever) perceive that it is alive and know that one day it won't be alive? Would what we know today about sentience have any impact on what Buddha would say if he were here now? Now, I'm not saying in any way that every living being doesn't deserve the right to life. I'm just saying I'm not so sure I believe some animals compared to others have the understanding to even realize they are alive to the point they fear death. I have seen bears react to the deaths of family members. Bears are quite sentient and aware and express emotions. Primates, whales, dolphins, dogs, cats, our ferrets all those things express emotion to some degree. Do fish and insects do it and we just don't know it?

    Also, I know we like to know things about the planet but the thought of what they do to various animals to determine if they really feel pain just disturbs me. What on earth do they do to those animals? I assume they cause pain to determine if the brain/body reacts in a way we recognize as experiencing pain. That just sounds like torture to me.
  • I am a fisherman and have no problems with fishing from an ethical perspective. My rod licence helps to pay the Environmental Health Dept to maintain clean waterways and many hard-working adults find a few hours by the river helps them to deal with the stresses of their lives.

    Being outdoors and spending hours gazing at a float can create very positive mental states in people that they can then take into the rest of their lives.

    I am careful with the fish I catch and return and most fishermen in the UK are incredible protective towards the fish they catch.

    It's not what you do, it's why you do it that counts.

    I wouldn't assume that you have to give up fishing to live an ethical life.
  • Animals instinctively react to danger in ways that show they fear pain and death. For example, when we try to catch fish, they swim away instinctively out of fear and desire to live.
    If we believe in compassion and karma, it is really necessary to stop fishing and any kind of hunting as soon as possible.
    personrivercane
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    Why is it necessary to stop if you believe in karma? If a person accepts they are accruing karma as a result of their actions, that is their choice to make. As has been stated a hundred times when this has come up, even vegans harm animals by their existence. It is impossible in our world not to. The most any of us can do it do our best to minimize it, and we all find different ways to do that. As for compassion, any person can apply that to issues that are important to them and tell other people what to do based on that.

    If you were compassionate, you wouldn't drive a car.
    If you were compassionate, you wouldn't buy food that comes in a box/can/package.
    If you were compassionate you would grow your own garden and live on that alone because any other options is harming other beings.
    If you were compassionate you would not use paper because it is made from trees.
    If you were compassionate you would donate all your free time to hospice.
    And so on. We all have the issues that are most important to us, and I don't think one person can tell another person which things should be most important where we show our compassion.
    lobsterriverflow
  • MaryAnne brings up a good point and I agree that it's possible that what may look like real pain is actually just a reflex action but one of the reasons I tend to believe that fish feel real pain is due to an article I read about a scientific study that more or less proved that crustaceans feel pain. In the past, it was believed that crustaceans do not experience actual pain and the distress you see when live crabs or lobsters are placed in boiling water is really just a defense mechanism of the central nervous system - the creature realizes that something is not right in its environment and is trying to escape the condition it finds itself in.

    However, having witnessed many of these scenes myself, especially after working in the restaurant industry when I was younger, it always seemed to me that they were truly in agony as they were boiled alive. According to science though, this was just an illusion and we were assured that the crustacean was not in any real pain.

    When I read the article, it gave me a kind of sinking feeling. It felt awful knowing that my suspicions were confirmed and I immediately thought that the same must be true for fish. Then again, science being what it is, there may be a new study in the future that proves the old one false.

    karasti brings up a really good point as well: is it possible that fish are aware enough to realize that their life is coming to an end? I don't see how it would be possible and every fish that I have seen die seems to die with total indifference. Then again, I remember the words of the Buddha when he said, "Every living creature trembles before violence. Life is precious to all." It's a pretty complex subject.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    It is complex. We evolved to be the creatures we are because we ate meat, in large part. Now some want to declare that it is not necessary. Should lions be herbivores? Wolves? Our pet dogs and cats? When we were primitive people, we ate raw organ meats. We did not eat legumes/beans because without proper preparation they are poisonous to us. So who is to say getting protein from beans is more natural than getting them from meats?

    I think all of us, for this issue or others, basically end up having to decide what we think Buddha would think of the current world state. Is it really better to buy packaged meat and fish at the store because we aren't the ones killing the animal, than it is to kill our own? I'm not convinced that is true. Perhaps I'm not convinced because I'm not ready to give up meat. It doesn't mean I don't find value in all life, because I do. I didn't say it's easy or pleasurable to take a life or any such thing. But I personally feel better about karma I might accrue for the taking of life in order to eat, than I do supporting the evil that factory farms perpetrate. Being a vegetarian isn't going to happen for me. Maybe one day. But not now. I've gone into the reasons so many times I'm not going to take the time to type them out again, lol. But if I accept that karma as a result, then that is my decision to make. No one else gets to tell me otherwise. I do eat more vegetables than I used to and I limit my meat intake for multiple reasons.
    riverflow
  • karasti said:

    Why is it necessary to stop if you believe in karma? If a person accepts they are accruing karma as a result of their actions, that is their choice to make. As has been stated a hundred times when this has come up, even vegans harm animals by their existence. It is impossible in our world not to. The most any of us can do it do our best to minimize it, and we all find different ways to do that. As for compassion, any person can apply that to issues that are important to them and tell other people what to do based on that.

    If you were compassionate, you wouldn't drive a car.
    If you were compassionate, you wouldn't buy food that comes in a box/can/package.
    If you were compassionate you would grow your own garden and live on that alone because any other options is harming other beings.
    If you were compassionate you would not use paper because it is made from trees.
    If you were compassionate you would donate all your free time to hospice.
    And so on. We all have the issues that are most important to us, and I don't think one person can tell another person which things should be most important where we show our compassion.

    The Buddha taught that as law of karma, infringement of the first precept can lead to birth in the lower realms and if reborn as human can lead to disease, illness and short life span. Therefore, I do not want my fellow Buddhist practioners to suffer a future life in one of the lower realms or to be reborn as human and get the serious illness. That's the basis of my recommendation. So, I would like to repeat my advice to refrain from hunting due to the karmic implications.

    As for compassion, I advise that we refrain from causing suffering to others if we want to develop compassion. Hunting causes suffering to other animals, so we should stop to develop compassion.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    If I hunt, I can feed my entire family for a year with a couple deer, some grouse and fish. I can guarantee you if I buy the food from the store, it causes suffering to more beings than the animals I might hunt.
  • howhow Veteran

    We all have different strengths and weaknesses. This is as true of our spiritual practise as of everything else. When I speak of not intentionally killing or harming sentient life, this is because it seems to cause less suffering than the alternative. If I can't enable that understanding through my actions then I don't think it would speak well about my practise. I do happen to live in a place where it's not very challenging to be a vegetarian.

    However...

    Those folks who are carnivores might very well look at other aspects of a spiritual practise, that I am not very good at, and equally hold that up as something essential.
    We all practise as well as we are willing to in the moment.

    It's interesting that I wouldn't dream of criticizing my carnivore friends for their consumption habits but when someone says they are Buddhist practitioners and the harming of sentient life is OK or fish don't really fear capture, or their nerve responses might just be reflexive..well my verbiage just spills over.

    It sounds to much like what some Humans used to say about other humans they conveniently thought were lesser beings just a few hundred years ago.
    Invincible_summerFlorian
  • karasti said:

    If I hunt, I can feed my entire family for a year with a couple deer, some grouse and fish. I can guarantee you if I buy the food from the store, it causes suffering to more beings than the animals I might hunt.

    The mind that wishes to promote the well-being of animals through refraining from purchasing meat sold in stores is certainly a mind of compassion. This is a good practice which should be recommended to others. At the same time and for the same reasons, the observance of the first precept is a practice to be recommended.
  • I think Karasti's point regarding karma - that you don't have to give up fishing but you do have to be prepared to take the consequences of your actions - is valid.

    I think fishing, undertaken with awareness, can create positive karma.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    @how, I never said (if you meant me) that fish or others don't fear. I asked if others thought fish are as aware as their life (and the possible end of it) as other beings seems to be. Bears, dogs and others seem to know what death is, at least in part. Do fish know too? I don't know. I never said fish do not fear their capture. What I have experienced indicates that they do, or at least that they desire to be free. When they struggle against being caught (which is much of the sport people enjoy when they enjoy it as a sport) that tells me they don't wish to be reeled in, not that they don't know or don't care. When they struggle to get released when people use lines off their boats instead of live wells, that tells me the same thing. Anyhow if you didn't mean my post, my apologies. I might have missed something else when reading.

    @karmablues as I said in an earlier post, even in today's world it is not so easy in all places to just be a vegetarian. Some people have other considerations they have to take into effect like specific diet requirements, doctor recommendations, and actual availability and affordability of food where they live. While most people probably live within very short driving distance of large supermarkets and places like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, not everyone (including myself) does. We have a hard time affording the ability to supplement our diets with the types of things most vegetarians I know live on, because they just aren't available here and when they are they cost a lot. I paid $6 for strawberries yesterday and for 5 people that equates to about 2 strawberries per person. I mean yes I guess it would be physically possible to live on dried beans (which I hate and cannot even chew, but swallow whole) and a small selection of other things, but it's not a healthy way to live. Because of the remoteness of where I live and the climate, alot of the things that are available almost year round in many places, are not available here. I also have a family to consider and we cannot afford to me to eat one diet while they eat another.

    So, while it might seem ideal and simple to you, it is not so ideal and simple to everyone. If I am reborn as a fly because of those circumstances, then I have no choice but to accept that. In other areas, I do what I can. I spend a lot of time rescuing turtles off the road during laying season. I volunteer with wildlife rehab. We feed the birds and the deer in the winter when they cannot find natural food anymore. Does it cancel out the fact I have in the past hunted for food? Does it cancel out the fact that in a month (assuming our ice melts, which at this point is looking questionable!) when our fishing seasons opens, I'll probably be fishing? I'm sure not. But I hope it counts for something.
    MaryAnnerivercane
  • @karasti I understand that a lot of times in life we are faced with situations where we have to choose the lesser of two evils. Even the Buddha, through the countless lifetimes of accumulating merit to obtain enlightenment, was at times reborn in the lower realms which meant that even he was unable to avoid breaking the precepts along his path towards purity.

    Anyways, when I first posted in this topic, the advice was mainly aimed for the OP. In his case it seems to be quite a simple situation where fishing is merely a kind of pastime and so it seems a simple recommendation to just give it up was appropriate.
  • there is something call the middle path.

    buddha advised us not to kill, he did not say
    dont eat meat.

    yes, believing in karma means not doing harm
    iintentionally to any living being.

    but if you have parasites n its killing you,
    buddha did not say dont take medicine to spare
    the lives of the parasite.

    there are millions of creatures we cant see and we crush
    some of them when we walk or sit down.
    the solution is not to stop walking or sitting.
    karasti said:

    Why is it necessary to stop if you believe in karma? If a person accepts they are accruing karma as a result of their actions, that is their choice to make. As has been stated a hundred times when this has come up, even vegans harm animals by their existence. It is impossible in our world not to. The most any of us can do it do our best to minimize it, and we all find different ways to do that. As for compassion, any person can apply that to issues that are important to them and tell other people what to do based on that.

    If you were compassionate, you wouldn't drive a car.
    If you were compassionate, you wouldn't buy food that comes in a box/can/package.
    If you were compassionate you would grow your own garden and live on that alone because any other options is harming other beings.
    If you were compassionate you would not use paper because it is made from trees.
    If you were compassionate you would donate all your free time to hospice.
    And so on. We all have the issues that are most important to us, and I don't think one person can tell another person which things should be most important where we show our compassion.

    rivercane
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    ...
    Anyways, when I first posted in this topic, the advice was mainly aimed for the OP. In his case it seems to be quite a simple situation where fishing is merely a kind of pastime and so it seems a simple recommendation to just give it up was appropriate.

    I've disagree with almost everything you've said, except this. To cause suffering for sport or fun...I just can't see the justification.
    Invincible_summer
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    I still don't see how believing in karma requires one to not perform certain actions. It makes sense that if one believes in karma they likely might not perform certain actions because they don't want to acquire the karma, but that doesn't make it a requirement or anything. It just gets on my nerves when I hear people (and I don't mean you but it's happened more than once) who say a person cannot hunt or fish, even for food, yet they'll sit down to a burger for dinner and claim it's ok because they didn't kill the cow. To me causing harm has farther reaching implications than that. I really should just avoid the topic, lol. My main point in posting at all was to point out that hopefully the OP can find a hobby they enjoy that still involves the outdoors and the water and such that isn't causing suffering, because it does seem to be a stumbling block to his enjoyment of fishing.

    @karmablues I apologize, I didn't mean to jump all over you or the topic. It's something that rubs me the wrong way, clearly, lol, and some of that I know is because of my mixed feelings on it as well. I do agree that causing suffering to beings just as a past time, boredom, or sport is different.

  • Be kind to the fish

    Every young Lobster is taught this.

    We all eat fish. We have no choice.
  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    A study not too long ago provided evidence that fish have nociceptors in their lips. They talk about it in this article.

    Invincible_summer
  • karasti said:

    I still don't see how believing in karma requires one to not perform certain actions.

    @karasti Basically, when Buddha taught about compassion, he meant for us to be compassionate not only towards other living beings, but also compassionate towards ourselves. That means not only are we supposed to wish others to be free from suffering, but we should also wish for ourselves to be free from suffering. Therefore, as a general rule, we should avoid creating negative karma because those acts - if we believe in karma - will cause us suffering in the future.

    But I do believe that there are situations where the right decision to make would be committing an act of negative karma. For example, in your situation, let's say your son told you that he would go fishing today for the family lunch. But then you refuse him and say you'll handle it yourself with the thought that you would rather bear the karmic consequences of hunting in the place of your child. That act of sacrifice for example would be the right thing to do, I believe. But, in general, believing in karma means we should avoid commiting negative karma as an act of compassion towards ourselves.
  • rivercane said:

    Hi, this is something that has been on my mind for quite some time. First, I would like to say that I realize that some Buddhists eat fish and/or fish for a living but I also know that non-harm and non-killing are part of the precepts. Bascially, what started this internal debate within myself was when I read in a dharma book years ago that as Buddhists we should refuse if our children ask for a gun to shoot birds or a fishing pole to catch fish.

    Well, I've never been a hunter and I hate guns, but I've always loved to fish. I feel a deep connection to it - it seems very fufilling to me, not just a hobby or a way to get food. In fact, I almost never keep the fish I catch but try to release them back into the water with as little harm done as possible. However, I know that the fish is fighting for its life and is in a tremendous amount of fear and stress and of course sometimes you will hook the fish in the eye or deep in the throat even if you are not trying to harm it.

    Many people say that fish do not have nerve endings in their mouths and thus do not feel pain but I don't believe that this is true. Even if it is not true pain, I know that the fish is terrified and can even die from shock after you release him. Surely this must generate negative karma for the person who causes the animal so much distress.

    In the past, I have even gone as far as fishing without a hook - just a lure such as a plastic worm affixed to a swivel on the end of my line. The thrill for me is just enticing the animal to bite. I never use live bait, always artifical, but even this is teasing the animal - causing it to think that it has food and then scaring it when it feels something strange in its mouth. I can't help but wonder if even fishing without a hook doesn't produce some bad karma.

    I haven't fished for a few years, mainly because I had moved away to a large city where there was no fishing available but now that I have moved back home and it is spring, I've been feeling a strong urge to go fishing. Like I said, I release what I catch back into the wild and always try to handle them properly but I still can't help but feel bad for the fish and part of me wants to quit fishing for good.

    I guess my main question is just how bad is it to go fishing for sport? Can anyone share any insights?

    It wouldn't be as bad as to hunt down fellow human as sports I suppose.
  • karasti said:

    It is complex. We evolved to be the creatures we are because we ate meat, in large part. Now some want to declare that it is not necessary. Should lions be herbivores? Wolves? Our pet dogs and cats? When we were primitive people, we ate raw organ meats. We did not eat legumes/beans because without proper preparation they are poisonous to us. So who is to say getting protein from beans is more natural than getting them from meats?

    I think all of us, for this issue or others, basically end up having to decide what we think Buddha would think of the current world state. Is it really better to buy packaged meat and fish at the store because we aren't the ones killing the animal, than it is to kill our own? I'm not convinced that is true. Perhaps I'm not convinced because I'm not ready to give up meat. It doesn't mean I don't find value in all life, because I do. I didn't say it's easy or pleasurable to take a life or any such thing. But I personally feel better about karma I might accrue for the taking of life in order to eat, than I do supporting the evil that factory farms perpetrate. Being a vegetarian isn't going to happen for me. Maybe one day. But not now. I've gone into the reasons so many times I'm not going to take the time to type them out again, lol. But if I accept that karma as a result, then that is my decision to make. No one else gets to tell me otherwise. I do eat more vegetables than I used to and I limit my meat intake for multiple reasons.

    It's a lot easier for humans (in general -- dietary needs vary somewhat from individual to individual) to be herbivores than lions, wolves, dogs and cats. We humans are omnivorous and can digest and get a lot of good out of vegetable matter. People try to figure out what is the most natural thing for humans to eat hence a whole variety of diets and different claims. However, since we have had the ability to cook our food for a long time, I wouldn't say it's unnatural to get protein from beans and legumes -- part of being omnivorous is being able to survive on a whole host of things. But more importantly, it works well for a lot of people (coincidentally I will be going home shortly and making a casserole with beans, lol).

    I personally don't see any distinction between purchasing meat or hunting/fishing for it yourself. The outcome is the same, and the more people who buy meat at the store, the more animals will be slaughtered due to simple supply and demand. I know there's the bit about 'not eating meat that was slaughtered specifically for you', but using that as a reason to eat meat never sat right with me -- it is slaughtered for consumers to buy, and if one is a consumer, then that animal was killed to feed them. I'm not trying to tell people they must give up eating meat here, but I don't find that particular explanation very satisfactory. Needing to eat meat due to a health reason or just not being able to give it up right now is completely understandable to me, however.

    So long story short -- if someone is going to eat what they caught, then that's fine. They would probably be going to a supermarket if they didn't, so either way *shrug* -- and I do agree with you about the horrors of factory farming. Now people not using what they kill to me is wasteful and sad that the animal died for no purpose.

    On a side note: about the do they feel pain/understand issue -- it seems that there's been a lot of research lately on animal intelligence with the outcomes tending towards animals being more intelligent and aware than humans have previously given them credit for. Plus there's that crabs and lobsters can feel pain article. I just wouldn't be trying to sooth myself with the idea that a particular animal can't really feel it. This wasn't directed at anyone in particular. I just remember that it got brought up.


  • jlljll Veteran
    I personally don't see any distinction between purchasing meat or hunting/fishing for it yourself. The outcome is the same.

    this view is opposed to buddha's teaching.

    while it is true that the law of supply n demand works.
    dont forget that industrial production is extremely wasteful.
    just visit your local supermarket to see the amount of meat
    that is thrown away.

    if all the members of newbuddhist stop eating meat for a year,
    what will be the impact on the meat industry?
    absolutely nothing. so deciding not to kill animals
    will affect you personally more than anything else.

    buddha's position is clear, he opposed killing,
    not eating meat.
    while you may argue that it is the same, i will argue that it is
    not.
    almost everyone i know will not eat meat if they have
    to kill the animal with their own hands.
    Invincible_summerperson
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    I recently read an article about a new trend in people taking up hunting as a sustainable way of getting their meat.

    The thing is, the more and more people start hunting, the less sustainable it is. Unless they're all shooting squirrels.

    If it wasn't such a faux pas, it would make more sense to consume the stray cats/dogs/rabbits, the squirrels, etc that are in abundance in many cities. But they're too cute for people to eat. That's a big double standard in many self-proclaimed "carnivores" that irks me.
    how
  • @invincible-summer - where do you live?
    I want to live in a city with stray rabbits - it would be so cute!
  • In Tibet, there is a yearly ceremony by monks where their patrons will buy up millions of live fish from the market and have the monks release them into the lakes after blessing them, to call attention to the traditional Tibetan Buddhist prohibition against killing.

    This practice sounds nice, but results in (1) A huge disaster to the ecosystem of the lake that suddenly has millions of fish to support and the lake is covered with dead, stinking fish soon after that, and (2) The price of fish for the hungry consumer goes up quite a bit, and (3) The donations to the temple that could have gone for projects to help people are wasted on buying fish soon to be dead anyway.

    When the damage to the lake and widespread death of the fish anyway is pointed out to the monks, they shrug and say they didn't kill the fish so it's not their concern once released. After that, it's the fish's karma.

    According to Buddhism, the monk is correct. Buddhism focuses on individual life, not the health of an ecosystem or population as a whole. The entire concept of ecology and pollution and sustained populations was foreign to them, and every individual life was seen as sacred while only individual, intentional actions counted in your own quest to Enlightenment. So the fish are saved from the market, which is good karma for the monks and people paying for this. The death later of an entire lake is not their karma.

    I suppose any moral to this might be, avoid killing but don't be stupid about it.
    howMaryAnneInvincible_summerperson
  • ^^ Wow, what an interesting, (and even tragic) example of good intentions gone wrong, eh? And yet they keep doing this year after year?
    I wonder what Buddha would think of humans not changing their ways - even after hundreds or thousands of years of evolution and (new) knowledge in world science has absolutely changed how we live, how we pollute / kill, and what needs to be done about it.
    This planet could not sustain vegetarianism across the cultures and countries of the world. Not only that, humans can't live that way everywhere- even if they wanted to.
    IMO this is why it's necessary to eliminate outdated dogma in ALL religions and belief systems.
    Sometimes ya gotta say "Traditions be damned...We know better now."
  • jlljll Veteran
    it is easy for you to call them stupid.
    but has it occured to you that not everyone is
    educated and aware of the ecological impact
    of their actions?

    as buddha pointed out, it is the intention that counts.

    if i save a man's life, and later this man goes on
    to kill and rape children. am i to be blamed?
    Cinorjer said:

    In Tibet, there is a yearly ceremony by monks where their patrons will buy up millions of live fish from the market and have the monks release them into the lakes after blessing them, to call attention to the traditional Tibetan Buddhist prohibition against killing.

    This practice sounds nice, but results in (1) A huge disaster to the ecosystem of the lake that suddenly has millions of fish to support and the lake is covered with dead, stinking fish soon after that, and (2) The price of fish for the hungry consumer goes up quite a bit, and (3) The donations to the temple that could have gone for projects to help people are wasted on buying fish soon to be dead anyway.

    When the damage to the lake and widespread death of the fish anyway is pointed out to the monks, they shrug and say they didn't kill the fish so it's not their concern once released. After that, it's the fish's karma.

    According to Buddhism, the monk is correct. Buddhism focuses on individual life, not the health of an ecosystem or population as a whole. The entire concept of ecology and pollution and sustained populations was foreign to them, and every individual life was seen as sacred while only individual, intentional actions counted in your own quest to Enlightenment. So the fish are saved from the market, which is good karma for the monks and people paying for this. The death later of an entire lake is not their karma.

    I suppose any moral to this might be, avoid killing but don't be stupid about it.

    Invincible_summer
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    No, according to Buddhism, the monk is not correct.
    If he were Hindu, he might take this view, but the first precept is 'Do no Harm'.
    It is not according to Buddhism. it is according to ignorance.
    Buddhism focuses on Suffering, its origin and cessation. If this monk cannot see that what they do is causing suffering - then they are not living according to the Dhamma.
    howMaryAnneJohn_SpencerInvincible_summer
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    jll said:

    it is easy for you to call them stupid.
    but has it occured to you that not everyone is
    educated and aware of the ecological impact
    of their actions?

    as buddha pointed out, it is the intention that counts.

    if i save a man's life, and later this man goes on
    to kill and rape children. am i to be blamed?


    Cinorjer said:

    In Tibet, there is a yearly ceremony by monks where their patrons will buy up millions of live fish from the market and have the monks release them into the lakes after blessing them, to call attention to the traditional Tibetan Buddhist prohibition against killing.

    This practice sounds nice, but results in (1) A huge disaster to the ecosystem of the lake that suddenly has millions of fish to support and the lake is covered with dead, stinking fish soon after that, and (2) The price of fish for the hungry consumer goes up quite a bit, and (3) The donations to the temple that could have gone for projects to help people are wasted on buying fish soon to be dead anyway.

    When the damage to the lake and widespread death of the fish anyway is pointed out to the monks, they shrug and say they didn't kill the fish so it's not their concern once released. After that, it's the fish's karma.

    According to Buddhism, the monk is correct. Buddhism focuses on individual life, not the health of an ecosystem or population as a whole. The entire concept of ecology and pollution and sustained populations was foreign to them, and every individual life was seen as sacred while only individual, intentional actions counted in your own quest to Enlightenment. So the fish are saved from the market, which is good karma for the monks and people paying for this. The death later of an entire lake is not their karma.

    I suppose any moral to this might be, avoid killing but don't be stupid about it.

    First of all, @jll, there's quite a big difference between saying that something that someone does is stupid and calling someone stupid. Everybody does a stupid thing now and then; that doesn't mean they are stupid.

    But if I take Cinorjer's post as being fairly accurate, just how smart do you think people have to be before they connect "the lake is covered with dead, stinking fish soon after that" and cause/effect they caused?

    And as I (and several others) have mentioned several times lately, there is a difference between ignorant intent and wise intent.

    While it doesn't seem to cause ecological problems, all over Southeast Asia traditional Buddhists pay men who have little birds in cages to release them...thus improving the person's karma who pays for the release. Then the birds fly back to the man who regularly feeds them, he puts them back in the cage. And it all gets repeated over and over and over. That's just plain dumb (although overall, the people may not be dumb). It's the difference between ignorant intent and wise intent.

    Invincible_summerhow
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    federica said:

    No, according to Buddhism, the monk is not correct.
    If he were Hindu, he might take this view, but the first precept is 'Do no Harm'.
    It is not according to Buddhism. it is according to ignorance.
    Buddhism focuses on Suffering, its origin and cessation. If this monk cannot see that what they do is causing suffering - then they are not living according to the Dhamma.

    One of your best posts ever!

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    @invincible_summer That is not true, about hunting. Hunting remains sustainable because it is controlled now. There is (not in the western world anyhow) no more hunting to the point of affecting the health of the population. Hunting goals are adjusted every year after investigation of the population, how the climate is affecting the population and so on. My state just closed it's moose hunting entirely because our population has inexplicably declined over the past 10 years, to the point we have lost 70% of what we had a just a decade ago. Even though hunting is not the cause (there were few licenses issued even when hunting was allowed) they needed to preserve every animal while they figure out what is going on.

    If every single person wanted to hunt, we'd have a problem, because there would not be enough licenses to go around. But I don't see that happening. My state is one of the highest hunting and fishing states there is in the US and even then less than 20% of residents hunt.

    @jll I guess it comes down to how one interprets the "do not harm living beings" statement then. A person who shops in a store might not be harming the animal on their own, but where they put their dollar is supporting people/companies that do, so *to me* it is equally as bad. I've asked various teachers about it and the responses have varied, but not a single one said that people who buy meat are off the hook because they did not kill the animal themselves. They still have a karmic liability. To what degree, obviously none of us knows.
    Invincible_summer
  • I apologize if anyone thinks I was calling the monks stupid. We all, even very educated, intelligent people, are capable of doing stupid things, and that's especially true when we put religious rules and rituals into the mix.

    And don't forget you're talking about a place where for the most part, education as we know it doesn't exist for even the monks beyond some basic stuff. It's a huge lake, so how can I say it can't hold more fish? How do I know that? Maybe a lot of the fish were sickly and stressed from being transported and going to die anyway. At least this way they died a natural death. Besides, it's been done this way for generations and the wise Lama says it's what we should do. See how we all can justify our actions?

    "Do not kill" is such a basic moral stand that even a grumpy Zennist like me feels hesitant to preach against it. Yet, a prohibition against killing at all can result in watching pests have their way with your house while you try to figure out how get rid of mice and termites and even misquitos without killing them. And Buddhists around the world justify eating meat by saying as long we don't personally kill the beast because it was bought already dead at the market, it's somehow different than if I catch, kill and eat a fish. Something about that just seems wrong. I honor those who have the fortitude to become vegetarians due to their moral convictions. I'm not one of them.
    Jeffrey
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited April 2013
    I think good intentions are important. Some of the fish have survived though not all. There are multiple causes to any situation per dependent origination. The condition of the lake did not support the lives of all the fish. But the conditions of the monks intention did. If that good intention is maintained it could cause others to be compassionate by example. The monks do not have power over all of the conditions in the universe.

    It's like you rob a store to feed your family. One cause is gone wrong, breaking the precepts. But there was also a good cause of feeding the family. That person might get arrested and make a worse problem, but the intention to feed the family is a good one even if the violation of the social framework of property as a cause of peace and order is violated.

    All things have multiple causes.

    If you have knowledge but no good inention it is useless until good intention comes. But it is a start.

    If you have good intention but no knowledge it is useless until knowledge. One kind of knowledge is that a kind heart should be followed. That is a kind of knowledge that prevents doing wrong (harming) and thinking it is of benefit.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    To be honest, @Jeffrey, I think you're confusing good intentions with justifying wrong behavior. But the scenarios will be judged differently by different people.
  • I'm saying the behaviour is caused by multiple things. And it can have multiple results. I neither endorse or sanction the behaviour, because it is not my fish.
  • robotrobot Veteran
    I would like more information about this practice of buying up "millions" of fish from markets in Tibet. Can someone provide a link?
    I have a pretty good idea what millions of fish looks like. It's a pretty big pile.
    I would guess that there
    A. Aren't enough live markets in Tibet to house thousands, let alone millions of fish at any one time, unless we are talking about over a period of years.
    And B. Apparently Tibetans aren't big fish eaters to begin with so so for a vendor to have more than a few live fish on hand at any time would not be profitable due to the short "shelf life" of most live fish.
    Perhaps what we are talking about is Tibetan monks in some other area of China or India doing this.
    Florian
  • Used to have links to several websites that discussed the practice and efforts to educate the monks as to the problem with the practice, but this is the only one I found just now that's still active: http://thelostyak.com/2012/01/07/fish-liberation/

  • robotrobot Veteran
    Well, that is a really interesting article. It is making more sense to me now. Chengdu which is in Szechuan region of China has a population of 14,000,000 (according to wiki), Chinese, who of course, eat plenty of fish and prefer to buy it live whenever possible.
  • howhow Veteran
    Jeffrey said:

    I think good intentions are important. Some of the fish have survived though not all. There are multiple causes to any situation per dependent origination. The condition of the lake did not support the lives of all the fish. But the conditions of the monks intention did. If that good intention is maintained it could cause others to be compassionate by example. The monks do not have power over all of the conditions in the universe.

    It's like you rob a store to feed your family. One cause is gone wrong, breaking the precepts. But there was also a good cause of feeding the family. That person might get arrested and make a worse problem, but the intention to feed the family is a good one even if the violation of the social framework of property as a cause of peace and order is violated.

    All things have multiple causes.

    If you have knowledge but no good inention it is useless until good intention comes. But it is a start.

    If you have good intention but no knowledge it is useless until knowledge. One kind of knowledge is that a kind heart should be followed. That is a kind of knowledge that prevents doing wrong (harming) and thinking it is of benefit.

    @Jeffery
    I have to wonder if this is really about your need to defend Tibetan monks because of your teacher. To my eye it's out of character with most of your other postings and is a very slippery slope to navigate.

    My own school for years has buried some truly awful examples of manipulative ignorance under that same mat.

    So much of that kind of thing has been endlessly enabled by devotees claiming it to really have mystical properties and that anyone who criticizes it is just too coarse to see.
    vinlynInvincible_summer
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited April 2013
    Sheesh, @how. I came across this explanation (multiple causes) from a teacher in a chatroom prior to my lama. Remember we cannot read others minds thus ideally we let them speak for themselves rather than call into question their motivations.

    I stuck to the issue of explaining multiple causes whereas you called into question my attachment to my lama. This is a logical fallacy because I could still be correct in my analysis irrespective to the motivation you questioned.

    Ad hominem
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