On 19th August 2022, two men brutally killed a blacktip reef shark on the shore of New Smyrna Beach in Florida, USA, and a video of them doing it recorded by a bystander has been widely circulating on Instagram. They drag the suffocating shark through the sand by the back caudal fin, and they stabbed a knife and the animal’s head. It is not known how long the shark was in agony as the recording ends there.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the killing in this video was legal under Florida law, but the animal rights organisation PETA has been sharing its outrage about the event as many other people have done. This sort of violent behaviour against sharks is common in Florida. In Palm Beach County, a local shark-fishing tournament in July attracted outrage from local observers, who saw sharks being tortured and killed. Reports are revealing numerous apparent violations of law that occurred, including that crews used harpoons to stab a bull shark to death and dragged another shark to death over several hours. PETA sent a letter to FWC Director Col. Roger Young urging his division to investigate and file appropriate charges against those responsible. 

Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation General Counsel, said, “Sharks simply minding their own business were hunted down and killed in prolonged, agonizing, and seemingly illegal ways by participants in this bloodbath…PETA is calling on the FWC to investigate these sickening allegations and enforce the law, and we’re appealing to the public to leave aquatic animals in peace by enjoying surfing, kayaking, and other nonviolent activities.”  The killing of these sharks is not that different from the killing of any other fish for commercial or sporting reasons — not just in Florida, but all over the world. However, many non-vegans that have commented on the video about the brutality of what they have seen do not realise that this is the fish they may have had for dinner was probably killed too in horrible ways. Omnivores and pescatarians contribute to this type of suffering by paying others to mercilessly kill aquatic animals for them.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.