Researchers in England have recently discovered that fish feel pain. I'm not really sure what prompted this research or how much it cost, but I could have saved them a lot of time and money on this project if they had just asked me.

When I was a kid, I learned to beware of those spiny fins on catfish. Getting stuck with one of those tiny bayonets while emptying a trot line is a memorable occasion. Once my thumb swelled up twice its size after getting stuck. Spitting tobacco juice on it and chanting over it were totally ineffective in relieving the pain. The tobacco juice did, however, discolor the flow of blood which I suppose had some psychological effect. And of course the chanting was nothing spiritual -- it was just regular English flowing out at a speed that made it seem I had suddenly embraced a cult.

Through simple, deductive reasoning I figured out that those spiked fins were for defensive posturing. And why would any creature go on the defensive if no pain would result. That brings me to ... duh.

Also, I didn't figure that old catfish finned me because it disagreed with my politics or my position on the "big bang theory."

All of this I discovered while sitting in a plywood boat on the Ochlocknee River. No white lab coats, horned rimmed glasses, clipboards, test tubes nor surveys were involved.

Obviously my conclusion is not clinical and wouldn't make a very good presentation at any kind of symposium. And it could all be written on a "post-it" note, which certainly would not be as impressive to critical minds as would a stack of research documents in clear plastic binders. Furthermore, I doubt anyone who would attend such a symposium would know about trot lines anyway.

I also noticed that the worm squirmed and fought when I put it on the hook. I assume it felt pain as well, given that it did not "go gently into the good night." Just one of those non-clinical, country boy hunches.

Now that this has "officially" been discovered, what practical application can it have?

Is this a subtle ploy to promote vegetarians? Or is it an attack on the Bass Masters Classic, given that there's little chance of finding those guys taking steroids?

Certainly there is a lot to be said for "cause and effect" in many venues. If everyone had to kill and prepare his own meat, there certainly would be more vegetarians -- especially for those who think steak happens because all of a sudden herds of Angus had simultaneous heart attacks.

Along those same lines, if it were not for heated indoor baptisteries, I'm sure there would be a lot more Methodists than there are Southern Baptists.

That last reference has nothing to do with the issue at hand, except that the spring-fed outdoor pool where I was baptized did have crayfish and catfish in it. And a snake or two had been seen in the pool from time to time, but we didn't say much about that. The idea was to leave the concept of walking on water strictly in the scriptures.

I think it stands to reason that any creature with a central nervous system responds to exterior stimuli. Some people would argue that even plants have feelings. I don't necessarily think that, but sometimes I will pose it to a die-hard vegetarian just for the fun of it.

So we are all clear on this now, fish feel pain. Now here's something else to ponder. Do they have opinions? Do they wonder what their minnows will grow up to be?

And not to leave a point dangling, I'm thinking that my position on the "big bang theory" would hinge largely on the size of one's forehead.

Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. E-mail:

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