Walking through a gourmet food market in Grand Central Station, I was struck by a sign promoting wild salmon. “Line caught!” the sign trumpeted.
Now there is a legitimate food-safety debate about the relative merits of eating farm-raised fish versus free-ranging salmon. At first blush, farmed salmon would seem to be the better choice because they have not bred in carcinogenic streams. But the farm-fed fish actually turned out to have higher levels of carcinogens in them because of what they were fed, and they had undesirable traces of the antibiotics they’d been treated with so that they didn’t get sick in their over-crowded enclosures.
So wild fish are probably healthier (and generally tastier, not to mention free of the pink dye with which their raised-in-captivity cousins are sometimes injected). But the issue of how a wild salmon is captured would seem to have little bearing on our physical well-being. We’re not even talking about whether these wild fish had the satisfaction of a free-ranging life—they all swam free. We’re just talking about how they spent their very last moments. It can’t matter to our own physical health whether a wild fish was “line caught”—and heroically exited this world after a mano-a-mano struggle with a lone craggy angler—or was instead unsportingly identified by radar and herded with hundreds of its hapless brethren into the mass grave of a mile-long net. But I guess it could matter to our guilt-ridden mental health if we imagined the fish we’re about to eat as a noble fighter, nearly pulling the fisherman into the water, and not the victim of mass slaughter.