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Is our hobby ethical?


Jim_D

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Hello all,

 

I've been involved in the ornamental fish hobby for a long time, as a hobbyist and also from the commercial side. The ethics of the hobby is something that I often think about, I try to push it to the back of my mind and give my charges the best life that I can possibly provide them and a dignified end if things go badly with age or sickness.

 

Sometimes though what our beloved fish go through so that we can pick and choose which ones we home in our aquariums or pond at a pet store is anything but ethical in my opinion (and I stand to be corrected if you think I'm incorrect) and I admit it does get me thinking way to deep about the hobby and I also admit that as an all round animal lover that it brings me down a little.

 

There's no easy answer and I think sadly it will never change, if our fish had fur instead of scales there would be an uproar over there treatment.

 

From their breeding ponds throughout Asia (for the most part our fish come from there, not all of course) to our tanks and ponds it's a rough and long road they travel and if it was humans it would be called a death march.

 

And I'm really only just touching on the freshwater side of the hobby, the saltwater and reef hobby have caused some areas to be stripped of live rock, corals and fish to satisfy our insatiable appetite for reef tanks in our homes. Being heavily involved in Australian reefing for a long time, its sad to report that the vast majority of corals and fish have a much shorter existence once taken from the reef and of course their chance of reproducing is totally lost.

 

Ok, I'm lamenting a hobby that I have loved all my life and will continue to love till I either kick the water change bucket or the kids put me in a home (hopefully one that has an aquarium :) ).

 

Do you sometimes think about these aspects of our hobby? I think what triggered this to come to the forefront of my mind was that that I dropped into an Australian chain pet store yesterday afternoon to get 2 metres of airline hosing and I looked at there wall of tanks. What I saw was a depressing sight of fish so absolutely terribly sick, fish dead lying on the bottom, fish dead floating and you could easily smell the rotting bodies. I called a young staff member over and told them and they could only say that they 'We've been fishing the dead ones out all day and the manager won't be in till tomorrow'.

 

These poor fish had come a long way, through a lot of culls, through a lot of different hands and done more travel than some of us will do in our lifetime, had made it all this way, so close to 'just maybe' a nice aquarium to live out their lives, just to die a horrible death in a chain pet store tank. But the sad thing is when I was driving home thinking about it, was that there was sadly nothing special about these fishes sufferings, nothing special in the slightest because all over the world fish by the millions are suffering the very same fate.

 

Again, if they had fur instead of scales, their lot in life would be different.

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I think we have all been there, Jim, and have all been disturbed by elements of the commercial fish trade.  Many prefer to buy from specialist breeders/importers who do treat their fish with the respect living creatures deserve.  

 

We all make choices in life about how to live ethically.  Personally, I now refuse to spend money at the pet stores that I feel don't take care of their stock.  But, this far down the supply chain (and ornamental fish need to really work to get to Norway) even ethical stores struggle with imports that arrive sick/dead.  One local store, run by a Norwegian man and his Thai wife, take excellent care of their goldies - they keep them in indoor ponds in the middle of the store - but even they sometimes get shipments of fish that have been packed so casually that they died underway.  This  particularly upset the woman because she cares deeply about the health of the fish she sells.  

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It's interesting you bring this up Jim, because I as just thinking about this very thing a couple days ago, and it's something I think about a lot having been both a hobbyist and someone who has worked in the retail aspect. I don't know what the answer should be, because I would hate to see the hobby disappear... But, I believe there really should be something more in place to stop the suffering that goes on. Maybe making it a specialized business license that ensures that the people opening pet stores know how to properly care for the animals and pass on that knowledge? 

 

Whatever the answer may be, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks about this and who feels sensitive to what the fish go through. 

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But would they? Think of mice. They are rased as food for other pets breed in horrible conditions taken as babies all the way upto adults and frozen or fed alive to a reptile, fish, or other mammal. They are poisoned by the millions caught by traps and experimented on by scientists. And they are just one case.

We can't do much about it and if we could I'm not sure we should. Although animals are at our mercy and subject to our actions in the end we can't protect them all or save them all or insure they all live good lives and we have to understand and except that as a simple truth of life rather it be for good or not.

Edited by Daniel E.
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Daniel brings up good points.

 

 

I do feel bad for some fish, thinking they've been bred so much to look a certain way that their lifespans might be shortened, I don't know much about what goes into getting these fancy breeds though, and I feel terrible for the ones that go through the culling and shipping only to end up sick in a petstore, or sold to someone who keeps it in a tiny tank/bowl with no consideration for what it's needs are.

 

But then there is only so much we can do to get the best for animals in the world. I feel its like how someone can really care about how meat animals are treated, they can choose to buy straight from the source where they can see how the animal is raised, raise them themselves, or only buy certain products, or even not eat meat at all, but it doesn't change the fact that thousands are still mistreated in the industry. (I love my meat btw :P)

 

I feel we can keep the hobby as ethical as possible by researching the needs of our fish and caring for them the best we can, it's only a small thing in the grand scheme but its something we can do. Or do like Susanne said and only buy from stores that treat their stock well and care for the needs of their fish. Of course even fish in the great stores have made it through culls etc, so there is always going to be that side of it, I guess people would then ask is it ethical to cull because they don't fit the look?

 

Its a tough subject, but in the end I think we just have to do our best to give our charges the best life we can, no matter where they came from.

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Realistically this can all be boiled back to simple Marxist economics. It's the commodification of life, what is that worth to a capitalist? Animals (I include humans too) are just products to be exchanged. Do I like it? No, not in the slightest, but it's the way the world works. The most we can do is be informed about where our 'products' come from, how they were treated and try to support reputable local businesses i.e. breeders, fish stores and the like. 

 

Supposedly they are changing the import laws for Australia, and if what I've heard ends up true, I will no longer support the purchase of fish not bred in Australia.

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It would be hard to discuss ethics of a hobby when it is a necessary evil?

 

I have bred some of my fancies, probably the most ethical and sustainable alternative. But there is no platform to promote such an effort where i live and rehoming them becomes very hard with the massive commercial imports everywhere.

 

I personally think the only thing you could do as a hobbyist is seriously consider buying fish that are bred locally, if this is not possible then just breed some yourself :thumbup2:

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I don't really think there are ethics involved in any business that is breeding an animal for sale. The furry ones don't receive any better treatment as a whole than the finned ones. Do a bit of research on that end and you will see the torture at puppy mills and factory farms.

 

The thing I like best about the goldfish side of this hobby is that there are no fish being "wild caught". I will never buy another wild caught fish for as long as I am in this hobby. I will try to provide the best conditions I can for any fish in my care. I also will only adopt dogs, rather than support the puppy mills. That is the best I can do on my end other than not keeping fish or other pets at all. But, if I can provide a home for an animal that would otherwise be abused or neglected or worse, I am happy to have them.

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If we are weighing in on ethics, how ethical is it that we keep fish in a confined space that is way smaller than their natural habitat?

Where does ethics fall in when we decide which fry live or die based on things like appearance?

We treat fish and bring them back from near death when naturally, these sickly ones should die...is it cruel when we prolong a life jacked on antibiotics on and off for the rest of the fish's life?

Then we humanize the fish, getting it to behave in an unnatural way...not saying we are better, just different.

I don't judge any of this, because I feel right and wrong is never absolute.

So ethical treatment of anything is subjective in my opinion.

...a vegan would consider me an unethical murderer for eating a burger.

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i know that my goldfish are better off with me than most other places they could be. since they have no natural habitat to compare to, i give them 110% and i am sure that we're both happy with that. they got a 80% WC today.. they danced around my hands, got in the way, got pushed away and rode the current of the new water being added.. then they got a nice feed.. ooh the joy.. this is as far as my thoughts go on being a fish owner and i am satisfied.

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I'm not sure if I consider fish keeping a hobby or just having pets. I personally won't label the activity as a whole as ethical or unethical because I can't be held responsible for the actions of others. That would be like saying it's unethical to have a dog becaus some scumbags abuse their dogs. Or like saying that breeding new types of goldfish is unethical when new breeds of dogs are bred as well. In fact keeping fish may be even more ethical as a whole since there are so many people who keep dogs as fashion accessories, or to gain attention for themselves. I would say an individual person who does not provide proper care for their pets is unethical, but I won't label the entire group of fishkeepers as such.

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...a vegan would consider me an unethical murderer for eating a burger.

and I consider you unethical for not sharing the burger ....   :feedme

 

 

Have one Susanne.

:D

wimpy_hamburgers_popeye.jpg

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I don't worry about how ethical something is, beyond my own actions and contributions to it. I'm not responsible for every other fish owner's level of knowledge and husbandry practices - I'd drive myself nuts if I went down that road - but I am absolutely responsible for how I care for and manage the animals in my charge and I strive to do the best I can for each of them.

For me, thats enough.

Edited by Arctic Mama
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I just want to insert some applause here. Everyone's brought up some amazing points.

Absolutely. Everything I thought of has been said already, especially the "they don't have a natural environment to compare to".

They've become like our other household pets, they're domesticated and I don't consider it a hobby anymore than I would consider my dog a hobby. They are my pets, they are family.

I don't support local places that treat their fish like objects, they deserve the care the other animals there receive and that's also why I prefer to shop local.

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I think of it this way : I am taking better care of my goldfish than many others would, and I hope that my level of care rubs off on those around me so that they know what goldfish should be living in, and that they can go to the vet just like any other pet can. I try my best to be a good influence and I don't think I'd ever pay for a goldfish from a commercial pet store. (I did adopt one though)

All we can really do is set a good example and hope others follow.

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I actually stopped keeping marines because it weighed on my conscience that they were wild caught!!!!!

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I actually stopped keeping marines because it weighed on my conscience that they were wild caught!!!!!

Why not find a place that raises their own fish and marine life? Then you could still keep fish you like, knowing they weren't stolen from their homes. You shouldn't have to give it up completely. :hug:heart

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I actually stopped keeping marines because it weighed on my conscience that they were wild caught!!!!!

Why not find a place that raises their own fish and marine life? Then you could still keep fish you like, knowing they weren't stolen from their homes. You shouldn't have to give it up completely. :hug:heart

good idea but I am not sure how many species of marine fish can be bred in captivity... I stopped keeping them many years ago things may have moved on since then!! but I am happy with my goldfish and tropicals!! :-)
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I actually stopped keeping marines because it weighed on my conscience that they were wild caught!!!!!

Why not find a place that raises their own fish and marine life? Then you could still keep fish you like, knowing they weren't stolen from their homes. You shouldn't have to give it up completely. :hug:heart

good idea but I am not sure how many species of marine fish can be bred in captivity... I stopped keeping them many years ago things may have moved on since then!! but I am happy with my goldfish and tropicals!! :-)

 

A very large number can be captive bred nowadays. It just takes a bit of research. :) Fishkeeping has moved on a whole lot since the "old days" as I am sure Koko's has shown you. :)

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I actually stopped keeping marines because it weighed on my conscience that they were wild caught!!!!!

Why not find a place that raises their own fish and marine life? Then you could still keep fish you like, knowing they weren't stolen from their homes. You shouldn't have to give it up completely. :hug:heart

good idea but I am not sure how many species of marine fish can be bred in captivity... I stopped keeping them many years ago things may have moved on since then!! but I am happy with my goldfish and tropicals!! :-)

A very large number can be captive bred nowadays. It just takes a bit of research. :) Fishkeeping has moved on a whole lot since the "old days" as I am sure Koko's has shown you. :)
I have gained a lot of knowledge since the old days and between.........both from kokos AND life experience!!!!...... has no one seen finding Nemo??...lol
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