Our Turn: Remembering a young activist who fought for all animals

Published: 8/13/2020 6:00:25 AM

New Hampshire’s animal rights community is mourning the death of Shimon Shuchat, a young activist from New York who had been working with us on a campaign to raise awareness about the plight of fish.

In his role as Respect for Fish Day coordinator for In Defense of Animals, an international animal protection organization, Shimon reached out to the N.H. Animal Rights League, the Voices of Wildlife in N.H., and Twin States Animal Liberation to ask if we would like to get involved.

Fish are the most abused animals on the planet, yet these animals receive little attention. Trillions of fish are exploited and killed every year in the food industry, the pet trade, and laboratories. Lacking vocal cords, fish cannot scream, and far too many people interpret this silence as meaning that they do not suffer. But a growing body of scientific evidence shows that fish indeed suffer. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association has stated that fish “should be accorded the same considerations as terrestrial vertebrates in regard to relief from pain.”

Shimon felt the pain of fish, and all exploited animals, to his core. Mature beyond his 22 years, his compassion and intelligence were inspirational. Our meetings with him were all online, but Shimon’s kindness and empathy could be felt through the screen.

We cannot know what was in Shimon’s mind in the days, months, and years leading up to his death, but we have come to learn that his heightened sensitivity to the suffering of animals caused him great pain. But like the fish, he did not scream, and we did not know how deeply this gentle soul suffered.

Working together we authored a “My Turn” that appeared in this paper (Monitor Opinion, July 27). In the piece we call for reform of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s liberal hatchery stocking program, which not only jeopardizes the well-being of native fish but also raises serious animal welfare concerns for the fish in hatcheries who are raised in unnatural, overcrowded conditions.

We will continue the work to reform this flawed system, for the fish and now also for Shimon. We are better activists for knowing him. You will always be in our hearts, Shimon. A tribute to Shimon can be read at theirturn.net/2020/08/04/in-memory-of-animal-rights-activist-shimon-shuchat-tribute/.

(Joan O’Brien and Linda Dionne are board members of the N.H. Animal Rights League).

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