Fish Aren't Swimming Vegetables, Warden Advised
Uncasville, Conn. — PETA's lawyers have advised Scott Erfe, warden of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, that Buddhist inmate Howard Cosby—a vegetarian—must stop being served fish, in compliance with his request for meat-free meals. According to Cosby, he gets fish, an aquatic animal, three times a week because the prison claims fish isn't meat. In the letter, PETA's attorney points out that fish is the flesh of a once-living animal and isn't plant-based food—thus, it is meat. The letter also cites numerous precedents that unless a prison can prove that serving an inmate vegetarian meals presents an undue burden to governmental interests, it must comply with the prisoner's wishes.
"Fish have thoughts, interests, and a central nervous system. They are not swimming vegetables," says general counsel to PETA Jeff Kerr. "The Correctional Center is violating Mr. Cosby's rights and needs to stop serving him fish or waste government time and money losing that battle in court."
Under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center is required to avoid imposing substantial burdens on inmates' religious exercise: "No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution … unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest." PETA asserts that neither exception applies in this case.
Studies show that fish are intelligent animals who feel pain just as all living beings do. Fish live in groups with social hierarchies, form bonds, and cooperate with other each, and they have impressive memories. They can judge time and even use tools.
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