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Keywords:

  • angling;
  • animal welfare;
  • environmental ethics;
  • feelings-based approach;
  • recreational fisheries

Abstract

The welfare of fish is a topic of increasing debate touching on a number of complex scientific and ethical issues and constructive dialogue between groups with differing approaches to the topic requires mutual understanding from both perspectives. In a recent review aimed at stimulating debate on this topic, Arlinghaus et al. (2007) explore the question of fish welfare in the particular context of recreational angling, by means of a critique of a review of fish welfare in general written by ourselves (Huntingford et al. 2006). We entirely agree with the desirability of debate on this topic and recognize a number of valuable qualities in the commentary by Arlinghaus et al. However, we argue that the critique has some serious flaws. In the first place, by rejecting a feelings-based approach to welfare, it fails to address the aspect of welfare that is at the heart of much legitimate public concern. Secondly, while advocating an objective, scientific approach to fish welfare, Arlinghaus et al. fail to present their own agenda (that recreational angling is morally acceptable) in a transparent way. Thirdly, they seriously misrepresent the position taken in Huntingford et al. (2006) on a number of important issues. In this reply, we address these points and then discuss briefly the areas of agreement and constructive disagreement between the two reviews.