Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institut für Agrar- und Gartenbauwissenschaften

Einstellungen der Bevölkerung in Deutschland zum Schutz in der Angelfischerei

As one top-ranking issue in the public discourse in Germany, animal welfare has been elevated to constitutional status in the year 2002. In the context of recreational fisheries, animal welfare has also evolved into a more and more significant topic. Some popular angling practices have been prohibited, and some anglers fear a total ban might be imposed on their hobby. No conclusive data have been available so far that showed the acceptance of recreational angling in Germany from an animal welfare perspective. The present study was conducted among the general population of the Federal Republic of Germany to bridge this information gap. A random sample was generated to gather representative cross-sectional data about attitudes, beliefs, moral evaluations and behavioural intentions related to recreational angling. The populationwas defined as German-speaking persons, aged 14 years or older, who lived in private households at their principal place of residence. A total of N = 1,043 individuals were interviewed face-to-face (72% response rate). An additional quota sample of n = 106 active anglers was recruited to boost the basis for statistical comparisons between answers given by anglers and non-anglers. The survey was conducted in the year 2008. The share of active anglers, who were defined as having angled at least once within the preceding 12 months, was 7.2 % of the random sample. This share suggested a slight increase in angling participation in Germany compared to the year 2002. About 90 % of the respondents indicated that they had hardly any knowledge about angling. Therefore, their moral evaluation of recreational angling was essentially based on stereotypic cognitions. The majority of respondents believed that animals including wildlife and fish should be regarded as fellow creatures who hold certain rights, have intrinsic value and also deserve respectful treatment. Moreover, humans have a moral obligation towards animals even if they do not have the capability to feel pain or to suffer. Nevertheless, human use of animals was accepted by the majority of respondents, even in a lethal way (e.g., to produce food). Respondents attributed sentience to trout, which was used as a model fish species, and two thirds of the participants also ascribed the capacity to feel pain to it. Respondents also acknowledged that angling may cause pain and suffering in fish but they were not inclined to perceive this as animal torture or cruelty. The term recreational angling elicited mostly positive or neutral spontaneous associations, but one fifth of the respondents associated exclusively negative thoughts with it. Angling was basically seen by the majority of participants as having relaxing, socialising and environment protection effects. From a moral point of view, both recreational angling and hunting were accepted by the majority of the respondents regardless of whether they were pursued with the intention to produce food or to manage fish stocks or wildlife. Morally, angling was more accepted than hunting. As expected, active anglers turned out to be more use oriented than non-anglers, but at the same time they were more interested in animal welfare matters than lapsed and non-anglers. On the one hand, respondents wanted more public attention to be paid to animal welfare issues in the context of recreational angling. On the other hand, they did not seem to perceive recreational angling as particularly prone to violations of animal welfare regulations, and participants did not see urgent societal need to take action to improve animal welfare in recreational angling. The majority of participants morally accepted the use of keep nets as well as put-and-take and catch-and-release angling of harvestable fish, all of which were addressed in the interview as examples of critical angling practices. By contrast, the use of live bait fish, angling competitions without the intention to consume the captured fish and particularly the practice of causing death by hypoxia were morally not accepted. Selective catch-and-release angling, where the angler decides at his own discretion which fish to retain and eat and which to release, turned out to be more accepted than total catch-and-release of all captured fish. Ecological and managerial motives of the angler for releasing fish were morally more accepted than pleasure-oriented motives. The subjectively estimated likelihood of the respondents signing a petition calling for a ban on recreational angling was very low. In conclusion, ten key findings related to the current social acceptance of recreation-al angling in the population were derived: (1) Overall, public perception of recreational angling in Germany is positive or neutral. (2) The majority of the population does not support a ban on angling. (3) Animal welfare is an important topic in society, but it is not perceived as a particularly pressing one in the context of recreational angling. (4) The majority of the population holds the belief that fish are capable of experiencing pain. However, this is only of secondary importance when it comes to the moral evaluation of recreational angling. (5) The motive of managing fish stocks is comparatively more accepted as a justification of angling than the motive of producing food. Both of them are perceived as morally acceptable reasons for angling by the majority of the population. (6) Recreational angling is more accepted in society than recreational hunting. (7) Allowing captured fish to die of hypoxia, angling competitions without the intention to consume the captured fish and the use of live bait fish are regarded as morally reprehensible, the use of keep nets, putand-take angling and catch-and-release of harvestable fish are considered as morally acceptable angling practices. (8) The population approves of selectively retaining some of the fish caught, an ecological or management-oriented reason for releasing harvestable fish is crucial for its moral justification. (9) The intention of the angler is more important for the ethical evaluation of recreational angling than the question of what happens to the fish when being angled. (10) Intensified animal-welfare-oriented criticisms against critical angling practices will likely be raised predominantly intrasectorally (i.e., within the fisheries sector rather than being voiced by external interest groups).