Food Fight: Fish or “Sea Kitten?”

Assorted tuna species
Wikimedia Commons

Written by guest blogger Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian magazine staff writer:

Filet of sea kitten in butter sauce, anyone? PETA’s recently launched “Save the Sea Kittens” campaign aims to rebrand fish as cuddly companions rather than swimming repositories of Omega-3 fatty acids. The Web site presents endearing fish facts and potentially nightmare-inducing bedtime stories, like Tara the Tuna’s adventures at the sea kitten factory farm. Fishing advocacy groups are not persuaded and apparently even kids -– part of the target audience -- find the whole business a bit, well, fishy.

But, of course, the re-christening of fish has been ongoing for decades now. The name “Chilean sea bass” was so enticing to diners that the creature formerly known as the Patagonian toothfish was fished almost out of existence in some waters. “Whore’s eggs” were named in poor taste, but “spicy sea urchins” sound mighty tasty. Peekytoe crab was mud crab once upon a time; spotted sunfish was stumpknocker; rock salmon was spiny dogfish.

Someone’s got to have a good “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” – type parody for this phenomenon. Why are fish so tempting to rebrand? And would an orange roughy by any other name taste as sweet? (Because they used to be called slimeheads.)

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