A favourite thing of mine on the weekends is to mindlessly channel surf with my husband. With practically no decent movies to watch on our usual movie channels, this was a great way to explore and uncover new programmes to while our time away on. As I was flicking through the various channels, my husband yelled at me to stop as we chanced upon a documentary on fishing. Great, I thought. Isn’t that the perfect thing to spend my Saturday on. It was a documentary that showed the hard lives and choppy waters that Japanese fishermen have to endure to acquire the salmon and tuna that we are so used to seeing. In between all that, I couldn’t help but lend my attention to the fishes.
As odd as it sounds, it breaks my heart seeing how most of the catch that gets brought up in the large net have to endure a horrible death. After they get removed from the net, they are dumped onto the hard floor and are left to thrash around and die as they struggle without oxygenated water. In the process, they bloody and bruise their bodies and it pains me to see how their welfare (despite being food) is taken out of the equation. What seals the deal for me was something I read in the past — when fish struggle and suffocate without air, their bodies are flushed with lactic acid and other chemicals that gives our meat that sour taste and of course that fishy scent that we hate. While we can’t control what happens on the fishing boat at sea, there is a new humane way of killing fish called Ike Jime that helps us as poachers end their suffering faster, while providing us with feed that does not harm our health.
Do Fish Feel Pain?
I have had friends who go on the pescatarian diet (that is a diet which prevents them from eating any form of meat except for seafood) explaining how it is acceptable to consume seafood since they do not feel pain. But that is further from the truth. A study discovered that fish do indeed feel pain. After injecting morphine into the bodies of rainbow trout, they noted how their behaviours have been altered and that confirms the theory that just like a painkiller would work on humans, the morphine masks the pain that these fishes feel. Even if you are not firm on the welfare of the animals that you eat, you can’t ignore the fact that the pain these fish feel actually affect the quality of your meat.
How Does Pain Affect Your Fish Meat?
To understand how it affects your meat, we would have to look deep within their structure. Put fish meat next to red meat and poultry and you could easily understand how delicate they are. When it comes to red meat like beef, a breakdown in protein would actually help make the meat a little more tender. But in fish meat, there is a lack of structure due to how delicate it is and when the structure of fish meat is broken down, that would spell trouble. In addition, it has been discovered that stress causes the muscle tissue in fish to break down and that stress before or during their slaughter would cause them to be more stressed. This also results in the fish meat having a lower pH value due to the lactic acid production in the muscle when they are exhausted from their struggle and thrashing about. When you regularly consume a diet with a high pH value that could slow down your bodily function and the important processes like protein synthesis, carbohydrate synthesis and mineral assimilation among others. Even though you are unable to determine what goes on within your body, you would likely observe this on your skin as acne breakouts or overall poorer skin quality. These effects on your skin are also related to the skincare products that you use as well and their respective pH levels.
What Is Ike Jime?
How Ike Jime works is by stabbing the fish around their head to make them braindead and wrecking their spinal cord with the use of a sharp and long pike. This ends the prolonged suffering that fish often endure before and when they are slaughtered while ensuring that your fish meat is much more palatable, nutritious and longer-lasting. I have yet to try it myself but it has been said that fish that has gone through the Ike Jime process has a much purer taste to it, while the meat is firm and the flesh glistens a little bit more. Those fish that are slaughtered in the usual manner often have meat that is mushy to the taste.
On the contrary, decapitating a fish and separating them from their head is not going to be enough since the muscles in the fish’s body would continue to experience stress from the autonomic nervous system that all fish have.
Why You Should Ike Jime?
Whether or not you are a chef, the practice of Ike Jime takes off the guilt that you have when you consume your meats. When you take off that unnecessary pain and stress from the food you eat, you heal the world a little with your empathy and care for others. Many chefs in Singapore have taken the lead by practising Ike Jime in their kitchen and it is time we follow suit.