Keith Arthur - BAA livebait ban is the thin end of the wedge

The decision made by the committee of the BAA to ban livebaiting is one of the most serious matters to arise in angling politics in the last decade, in my opinion.

There is no more natural means of catching fish than by using livebaits. Our very sport, coarse fishing, bears its name under the meaning of coarse being
natural: we fish with natural rather than artificial baits, distinguishing us from game anglers with their fur and feather.

The major problem I have always had with banning livebaiting is the ‘thin end of the wedge’ idea. Who plays God here and decides what creatures can be used ‘live’ rather than dead, and on what grounds? Is a lobworm any less deserving of life than a minnow? I would suggest only in anglers’ eyes would that be the case.

And if livebaiting with fish is not allowed, I take it that deadbaiting will be. So, unless I’m mistaken, it is entirely okay to use a fish as bait that has been trapped or netted, then killed (or, worse still, maybe allowed to die) and pushed into a plastic bag to be frozen. If that’s the case, some seriously twisted logic is coming into play.

Many people, even some anglers, find livebaiting ethically unacceptable. They probably think the same way about eating carp. They are, paradoxically, entirely happy to stick a sharp lump of steel in their mouths or, accidentally, elsewhere, remove it from its natural element for an indeterminate time (long enough to take pictures, on both sides from many angles), weigh it, then return it ‘to fight another day.’

Personally, I find livebaiting somehow less ethically questionable than that. What’s more worrying is the impetus this decision gives to potential anti-angling groups.

I can see the headline now: “Even anglers think their sport is cruel.”

Not for the first time I consider John Williams to be off the pace and ill-informed as to what the majority of anglers in this country want. His campaign to have canals opened in the closed season, on the grounds that it would not only save clubs that rented canals from extinction but would even improve memberships, as anglers would flood there from rivers once March 14 came around, was grotesquely wide of the mark.

Opening canals certainly had little thought for fish welfare, the reason given for the proposed ban. This latest development, I fear, is even more of a grave error.

If I was a BAA member who enjoyed livebaiting, I think I would be calling for an EGM so a decision could be made democratically. If the majority of members, rather than a committee patently biased towards matchfishing, made the same decision, then it would be time to look for some new venues.