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On renaming fish 'sea kittens'

When the Cleveland Boat Show (which I managed for many years) opens tomorrow, Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel will take off behind her radio-controlled ski boat to the applause of hundreds and the delight of local TV news crews. It happens every year, because Twiggy has been an ever-popular attraction in Cleveland since 1986.

I well-remember the year PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) demanded we stop using Twiggy in the boat show because “she is being abused and doesn’t even like water,” they said. Actually, squirrels are excellent swimmers, and Twiggy doesn’t have a hard life, what with having the run of her 40-foot motor home, dining on oatmeal and gourmet nuts, demanding her pool be heated to 85 degrees before she skis, and always having at least two hours rest between shows. I should live that good!

Today, PETA and I are crossing paths again. What’s got me laughing now is this: Tomorrow, when I hope a big grouper takes my bait, PETA doesn’t want me to think of a nice fish filet but, rather, they want me to snuggle up next to it and see it as a “sea kitten!” No, I’m not joking here.

Truth is, PETA has initiated a campaign to rename fish “sea kittens.” According to “Save the Kittens” campaign coordinator Ashley Byrne, if everyone started calling fish “sea kittens,” fewer of these “gentle animals would be violently killed for food, painfully hooked for 'sport,' or cruelly confined to aquariums.”

Recently, PETA urged Palm Beach Atlantic University to change its mascot name from Sailfish to Sea Kitten. PETA wrote president Dr. David W. Clark: “Neurobiologists tell us that fish have complex nervous systems that comprehend and respond to pain. Fish communicate and develop relationships with one another, show affection by gently rubbing against other fish, and even grieve when their companions die.” Good grief!

Laugh if you will, but PETA even has Save the Sea Kitten T-shirts and Sea Kitten Bedtime Stories. Like this one titled “Snuggle Buddies.” It starts: “Tara the Tuna is frisky and playful, and she loves to squeeze herself into tight spaces and snuggle up close to her Sea Kitten pals.”

I’m so grateful to be reminded that the world still has its share of whackos. And with all due respect to neurobiologists, I think when a Tara Tuna “snuggles up close to another sea pal,” it’s her dinner time. Funny, I think of tuna the same way . . . pass the Wasabi.

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