I am not a trout fisherman – meaning both that I don’t do it and, even if I did, I’m not very good at it. To my knowledge, no trout has ever ever fretted when I came near. But I have a trout fishing friend, who recently shared what appears to be an ethical dilemma as well as a window on cultural differences.
My friend fishes but only does “catch and release.” Although we haven’t explored his innermost reasons for doing this, I’m fairly certain that he views this method as more humane trout treatment than killing fish. But he recently stated that, in some Native American tribes, “catch and release” is itself inhumane – often viewed as animal torture, or at least “messing with them” – while it is perfectly natural and OK to kill fish for consumption – to sustain one’s own existence.
I’m not sure how universal this view is in America. Often native tribes are idealized by the dominant culture, while reality is somewhat mixed. In my own limited contact with native culture, I’ve noticed that not all tribes think alike. But I’m very willing to admit that a philosophy of “kill for sustenance only – don’t play with the fish” might be very prevalent. In general, I’m often surprised that the way I think about such things is not universal.
I note with interest that this nativist theme permeates the recent movie Avatar, in which 10’ tall blue aliens substitute for earth’s native cultures and have a rather prayerful and respectful way of killing fellow creatures – the “clean kill.” Of course, it must be noted that, in the movie, the invaders are definitely not practicing “catch and release” or “clean kill,” so there’s that aspect to the movie as well. But I suspect that blue aliens would also take a dim view of “catch and release” on their own planet. Perhaps we’ll find out in Avatar 2 – but they might not have any trout.