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January 16, 2009

Would you eat a sea kitten?

Posted: 12:46 PM ET

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/16/art.sea.peta.jpg

caption="You can make a cute little sea kitten character like this at the new section of PETA's Web site, peta.org/sea_kittens."]

You don't have to look at the page views of Web sites like cutelittlekittens.com to know that a lot of people adore kittens. Conversely, not as many people adore fish - in fact, cutefish.com has only the number 0.

The animal rights campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, has decided to play off of our awe of kittens by re-branding fish as "sea kittens" in order to discourage people from killing and eating them.

"Would people think twice about ordering fish sticks if they were called Sea Kitten sticks? Help us save fish by changing their names!" PETA writes on its Web site.

The new sea kitten Web portal is complete with a petition, cute little stories about sea kittens - some attend Clamster University! - and a tool to design your own sea kitten. The petition has more than 4,544 signatures as of this writing.

"Given the drastic situation for this country's sea kittens - who are often the victims of many major threats to their welfare and ways of life - it's high time that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stop allowing our little sea kitten friends to be tortured and killed. Who'd want to hurt a sea kitten anyway?!" the Web site says.

How far will this "sea kitten" label extend? Will people find themselves ordering the "Chilean striped sea kitten with mashed potatoes"?

Certainly there are already vegetarians out there who do not consume fish for ethical reasons. Princeton professor Peter Singer, famous for his arguments about why not to consume meat, similarly advocates avoiding eating fish in Animal Liberation, although notes that things do get fuzzier when considering simpler forms of marine life, such as mollusks and oysters.

Of course, besides being a favorite delicacy at restaurants and family dinners, fish also form part of specific eating rituals in certain cultures. For example, in China, the fish is served whole - with the head and tail intact - to represent prosperity, especially on Chinese New Year’s Eve. In Slovakia, it is traditional to let a carp swim in the family bathtub in the days before the feisty critter becomes part of the Christmas meal. And, it is a Jewish custom eat fish on the Sabbath, one reason being that the numerical value of the Hebrew word for fish, "dag," adds up to 7, and the Sabbath is the 7th day.

So what do you think: Is it ethically acceptable to eat fish? Will the sea kitten campaign be effective? Would your goldfish mind being called a sea kitten?

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Filed under: Animals • Oceans


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