Monday, October 17, 2005

Fish Heads, Fish Heads...

In case you needed to know, Pharyngula has given a lesson on how to euthanize a fish. It's actually a cute post. Alright, maybe not cute, but that's the only word I can think of right now.

It's funny how scientists become "expert exterminators" in the eyes of the public. I had someone who wanted me to put their cat asleep for them. Apparently if you have access to the drugs and the know how, it makes you worthy of such a painful decision. I've had numerous members of the public ask me how to get rid of rats, mice, and snakes in various regions around their houses--some have even asked me to draw out designs for homemade traps.

When I was an undergrad, I arrived late to lab. My group had designated me the animal slayer because of my tardiness and their weaniness (they were all boys, by the way), and I had to behead and pith the frog. Have I ever told you all that I am a frog lover, through and through? I vowed I would never do it again.

Alright, so I lied to myself. Go figure, it's not the first time. I've had to behead quite a few animals since that dreaded frog massacre. It always used to bother me, the decapitating-live-animals thing, until one day when someone rattled off the story about how executioners would hold up the heads of decapitated people so that the heads could see their bodies (France has got some bad karma). Now it doesn't bother me--it devastates me.

Regardless, I will not give you any advice on how to kill anything. I will tell you how to catch things without killing them, but that's as far as it goes.

11 Comments:

At 3:21 PM, Blogger PZ Myers said...

I've pithed a few frogs. I can handle that. The one thing I could never do, that really squicked me hard, was one frog lab I worked with that routinely euthanized their animals by putting one blade of a pair of scissors in their mouth and snip, off goes the top of their head. It was quick and efficient, but ooh, the little half-beheaded frogs were freaky.

And really, I don't like killing my fish. I have avoided all work on the adults for years because I'd rather not have to kill any of them.

 
At 5:33 PM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

I figured you didn't like killing them. People who like or don't mind killing animals never fret about how to kill them. I also see you avoided mentioning the "life flush" method, which really shows how much you don't like killing fish. I've seen way too many frat boys flushing fish just so they can giggle like little girls.

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger sue said...

I'm no animal activist and I know there has to be some sacrifice for science, but at least can it be humane? Is there such a thing as a humane kill? Hmmm... just wonderin' out loud here...

 
At 9:39 PM, Blogger trisha said...

I wouldn't mind so much if I just died while sleeping.

 
At 11:04 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

We recycled our oocyte donating Xenopus, meaning we'd be cutting them open again and again with not a lot of time in between for them to recover. They were out cold under surgery (except for the odd one that would explode off the table trailing suture, say if the tricaine bottle had gone off), but I can't imagine that the recovery period was happy and pain free. And then they were liable to go under the knife even pretty much as soon as they had healed. I wondered if it wouldn't be more humane to just "harvest" once then free them of this mortal coil.

 
At 11:06 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

i.e. Xenopus

 
At 10:58 AM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

I think the problem is that sometimes the most humane way seems the most awful. People think that CO2 or drug overdose is the most human way to sacrifice a rat, but these methods can be actually quite stressful (and painful) for the animal when compared to rapid decapitation. Decapitation, however, seems a lot more awful (especially if you are the person in charge of sacrificing) so people go with the former many times. It's not always about what's best for the animal, a lot of judgements are made about what's best for the mental state of the executioner.

I think that it never feels humane--even if I believe in it and if I've taken all the necessary steps to avoid causing pain and/or stress to the animal, it still doesn't feel humane. Killing is killing regardless of whether you believe in your reasons for carrying it out--it always gets to you a little. When people say it doesn't bother them at all, I'm always wary to work with them--these are usually (not always, though) the people who are a little lax on how they treat the animals.

At least I'm not bludgeoning tadpoles through their heads with hooks. Everyone is always worried about what "evil scientists" are doing, but there are far worse things going on in this world for sport. I'm not saying I'm against fishing or hunting, but I'm sometimes annoyed when I have to resubmit an animal protocol 50 times because there's an arguement over whether or not I should give the rats aspirin after surgery, yet people can go out after work and torture creatures without having to pass any tests or follow any protocols on animal behavior and welfare.

Wow, I got caught up in that.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

I thought my family was special because we know the fish heads song..."they can't play baseball, they're not good dancers..."

I'm very thankful I didn't get into the medical genetics grad programs I applied for because I don't think I could handle killing all the mice. I knew a woman who worked with zebra finches once, in a neuro lab...I couldn't imagine killing cute little birdies either.

When my electron micro prof killed the mouse we used for our samples, he snapped its neck: squicked me out big time.

 
At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Jenny said...

In high school, I had to dissect a fetal pig, and was fine with everything except the eyes. My lab partner and I refused to take them out, and just dragged out the process until our fetal pig session was over and it was time to move on to breeding fruit flies. Never did take out those eyes...

 
At 4:10 PM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

I once received a 50-mL conical tube with a human eye floating in it. It was blue...I will never forget that day.

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

botanical girl: any family that sings that song is special:) It's a very special song.

 

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