This only shows a small bit of what was displayed in the episode. Having now watched it myself, I would estimate that about half of the hour long episode was dedicated to Sarah and Bristol's time upon a halibut fishing vessel, where they are both shown attempting to beat the life (or the struggle) out of several halibut with a club (with admittedly limited success), momentarily slicing the gills to allow the halibut to bleed out onto the ship, and even holding the still beating heart of one of the fish after it has been sliced apart. At one point during this gruesome ordeal we hear a voice over from Palin expressing that while she understands this appears brutal, it is also the safest and most humane way to kill the halibut.
While the Palins may have managed to stir up controversy on the subject, what happened in the episode was by no means unusual. I was able to find numerous similar clips on YouTube of halibut being beaten into submission, this next clip being perhaps the most brutal of them.
One reader on the Washington Post Blog comments:
As a commercial halibut fisherman in southeast Alaska, I have personally clubbed thousands of halibut. I can tell you that is the only way to do it. A good size halibut can break your boat, your legs and your neck if you don't stun them. It is far more humane than letting them gasp to death on deck. After stunning, a slice to the gills bleeds them out in a hurry. Bleeding them is why they taste so good. Unless you are a vegetarian, you can't really say much about the killing of your food. It's a fact that things die so you can eat.
Luckily I am a vegetarian, so I do have something to say about the killing of these beings. None of the clips I viewed showed the slightest concern for the suffering of the animals. In the episode with the Palins several fish seem to just be left sitting, bludgeoned into submission, but without their gills slit to even begin the bleeding process; clearly alive the entire time. These halibut are left, often for hours at a time hooked underwater, then they are dragged to the surface where they often have additional hooks jabbed into them to pull them aboard, where they are then brutally beaten with nothing more than the crudest mallets until they lose the will to struggle, and are then slowly bled out aboard these vessels until the last breath of life drains from their bodies.
The only sense in this immense cruelty is the economic sense it makes for those participating in the process. There is not the slightest sign of concern for the suffering of the animals given along the way. Not an effort to pull in lines sooner, not an effort to pull them aboard without jabbing into their flesh once again, not even the kind grace (sarcasm) of a captive bolt to put them out of their misery without struggling against repeated blows to enjoy another breath.
These animals, like so many others, are treated as if their interests deserve no consideration. Even when it wouldn't cause us the slightest inconvenience, we still forgo what would lessen their suffering if it does not benefit ourselves as well. We vegans are often accused of placing ourselves upon a pedestal of moral superiority, but those who act as if we have some god-given right over others have placed themselves upon a much sicker pedestal of superiority. For those of us who don't think there is any ethical sense in this purposeless abuse, we make a difference by decreasing the economic sense these beatings make for those without any concern for the suffering of these cousins.