A Memorial for Dead Fish; Did PETA Volunteer Go Too Far?

A proposed memorial sign on California freeway has caused a maelstrom of sorts.
Just some of the 1,600 dead fish waiting to be memorialized in California. (Photo: adventurejournal)
Nov 2, 2012· 2 MIN READ

In Greco-Roman mythology, a fish symbolizes change and transformation. Aphrodite and Heros escaped from the fearsome 100-dragon headed monster Typhon by transforming into fish. The Greek word for “fish” is “ichthys”, which forms an acrostic, meaning “Jesus Christ is God’s Son, the Savior.” Because of this acrostic, many Christians place the symbol of a fish on their cars and it symbolizes safety.

So, it’s ironic that on October 11, as a truck was en route to Irvine Ranch 99 Market in California, it crashed into two other cars, causing large tanks to crack, filled with 1,600 pounds of fish believed to be saltwater bass. Some of the fish flopped out, but most of them died immediately.

Dina Kourda, a voluntary advisory board member for the Orange County chapter of the Animal Protection and Rescue League and a volunteer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was shocked when she read about the tragic event.

Oh behalf of PETA, she wrote to the Irvine Public Works Department, requesting to place a memorial sign at the crash site of Walnut and Yale avenues. The sign would read: "In memory of hundreds of fish who suffered and died at this spot."

MORE: Millions of Fish-Killing Pellets Wash Up on Hong Kong Beaches

The fish will now need to be replaced, which would only double the amount of fish that would have to die. Being a champion of vegan outreach, Kourda hopes that the memorial "will be a clear reminder to drivers, whether they're in their cars or commercial vehicles, to be careful." She adds, "It might inspire anybody passing by to leave fish and other animal products off their plates and become vegan."

Hateful responses to Kourda’s suggestion ranged from Linhxa Othiem’s snarky “becha she is pro-choice”, (which is laughable because both Pagan and Ancient African cultures recognize fish as symbols of fertility); and Ed Golka’s: “I'm so sick of vegans murdering poor plants. Asparagus has feelings too!” to Claudia Zhang’s “She looks malnournished, prob missing essential animal proteins”; and Greg Williams’ “Complete Idiot. She and the other PETA folks should have been in the truck.”

Williams’ comment was particularly shocking, because he actually wished death upon Kourda, when her fish memorial suggestion only had a kind intention behind it, and it was an act to make sure people drive carefully.

Not to be religious, but let’s turn back to the Jesus fish in this case. Wasn’t that guy all about peace? There must be some reason fish hold a cultural significance to many people. The Celtic symbolic meaning of fish dealt with wisdom and knowledge, so excuse me if I'm scoffing at Williams’ “idiot” comment.

In Buddhism, fish symbolize happiness and freedom; in China, fish symbolize unity and fidelity, and in European cultures, fish symbolize adaptability, the flow of life, and determination. All of these symbolic meanings are positive, so we’re certainly glad Kourda was determined to stand up for her beliefs and these fish because if it weren’t for people like her, other people wouldn’t have the courage to fight for issues that were important to them.

"I think it’s fair to say we have no plans to erect a memorial," says Irvine spokesman Craig Reem. Although PETA says this would be their first request for a fish remembrance, spokeswoman Ashley Byrne called it “appropriate”. After all, according to Victoria Braithwaite’s book, “Do Fish Feel Pain?”, after fish experience a stressful event (like falling out of a truck), their bodies release cortisol into their bloodstreams, just as humans’ bodies do. And, according to a research team led by Dr Lynne Sneddon, the “‘profound behavioural and physiological changes’ shown by trout when exposed to noxious substances are comparable to those seen in higher mammals”.

So, shouldn’t we at least respect that fish may be slightly like us when they experience pain?

A little memorial sign on the freeway could do just the trick.