Tag Archives: animal welfare

Major aquarium vendor to stop selling fish bowls — they drive fish mad

A major French aquarium vendor has announced it will stop selling the “classic” round fish bowls because they are cruel, driving fish mad and killing them quickly.

The history of keeping fish (either for food or as pets) goes back thousands of years. Oftentimes, fish are kept in tanks or ponds, but at some point, the fish bowl became pretty popular, at least for some species of fish. It’s not clear when the fish bowl was invented, but according to legend, it was first created by Madame du Barry, mistress to King Louis XV in the 18th century. Whether or not this is true, fish bowls became widespread over the next couple of centuries, especially for Betta fish (Betta splendens) or goldfish (Carassius auratus).

Proponents of these fish bowls claim that since these fish cover relatively small habitats, a fish bowl should do for them. But the evidence suggests otherwise.

It’s not just that there’s not enough space for the fish (though that should be enough reason). The shape of fish bowls also creates a poor surface-to-air ratio, and the bowl doesn’t have room for a filter. It also distorts the animal’s field of view and is easy to jump from.

“People buy a goldfish for their kids on impulse, but if they knew what a torture it is, they would not do it. Turning round and round in a small bowl drives fish crazy and kills them quickly,” AgroBiothers CEO Matthieu Lambeaux told Reuters. The company, one of the leading aquarium vendors, announced it will no longer be selling any fish bowls.

In healthy conditions, goldfish can easily live up to 30 years or even more, but in fish bowls, they rarely make it past one year. Germany and a few other countries have banned fish bowls, but most countries (including France and the US) have no legislation on this. Lambeaux said the company worked to educate clients, but at this point, they simply refuse to offer any more fish bowls — although demand does exist. In previous years, the company would sell around 50,000 fish bowls a year.

“It is a French anachronism, that is why we decided to move. We cannot educate all our customers to explain that keeping fish in a bowl is cruel. We consider that it is our responsibility to no longer give consumers that choice,” Lambeaux said. He added that fish need ample space and clean water, that small bowls are driving fish crazy, and anyone considering an aquarium should have at least a minimum of equipment and expertise.

The problem of fish bowls is something people have been aware of for a long time. In a 1902 edition of the Freshwater Aquaria magazine, a commentary noted that “the common glass globe… has nothing whatever to recommend it, except perhaps to those who delight to have their unfortunate captives suspended by a chain from the ceiling in front of the window.” In 1910, botanist Hugo Mulertt noted that “the old-fashioned fish globe is about the worst vessel that can be selected for the keeping of goldfish as pets.” Over a century later, the old-fashioned fish globe still endures.

The welfare of ornamental fish is often overlooked, even though the trade of ornamental fish trade is now a multibillion-dollar industry, with legal trade estimated to be worth between 15 and 20 billion dollarsper year (and a burgeoning illegal industry as well).

Fish have highly underrated cognitive abilities, but as awareness and understanding of fish improves, the case for better welfare for them becomes stronger and stronger, and a movement in this sense seems to be gaining momentum.

The fact that companies are also starting to acknowledge this is encouraging, but overall, this is still just a small step.

UK formally recognizes animals as “sentient beings”, rolling out new protection for pets and wild animals

In a move hailed by animal welfare campaigners, the United Kingdom will formally recognize animals as sentient beings for the first time. The move will also include a suite of animal welfare measures, such as banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals and cracking down on pet theft.

Palmerston, who used to be the resident chief mouser of the UK’s Foreign Office. He has retired last year. Credit: Foreign Office.

Ministers said Brexit, the country’s departure from the European Union, has allowed the UK to go further than previous EU legislation and establish its own rules, improving protections for pets and wild animals even further. Still, the new legislation will only apply to vertebrates, the government said, not to cephalopods such as octopus.

“We are a nation of animal lovers and were the first country in the world to pass animal welfare laws,” George Eustice, the environment secretary, said in a statement earlier this week. “As an independent nation, we are now able to go further than ever to build on our excellent track record.”

The measures

Animal welfare will be improved by tackling puppy smuggling through changes to import rules and introducing compulsory microchipping for cats. At the same time, controlled training e-collars will be forbidden and pet theft will be more strictly controlled by implementing a new government task force set to be announced. 

Simultaneously, wild animals will be further protected by making it illegal to keep primates as pets and introducing new laws to crack down on illegal hare coursing, a bloodsport where dogs such as greyhounds chase hares. The government will also restrict the use of glue traps and fund wildlife conservation programs in the UK. 

The UK will also encourage the protection of animals abroad banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals, as well as the sale of ivory. The import and export of shark fins will be prohibited and a ban on the sale of foie gras will be explored. Ads of unacceptable low-welfare animal practices will also be banned. 

However, the use of cages for poultry and farrowing crates for pigs will not be subject to an outright ban, a request that campaigners have long been asking for. Instead, their use will be “examined,” and farmers will be given incentives by the government to improve animal health and welfare through the future farm subsidy regime.

To deliver these reforms, the government will be introducing a series of bills focusing on animal sentience, kept animals in the UK and the welfare of animals. There will also be a series of non-legislative changes to promote animal welfare over the coming months, with a number of regulations due to be brought forward as early as this year.

Animal welfare advocates have given the proposals a measured welcome. They, however, warned against watering down the plans. Claire Bass said in a statement that “the devil will be in the detail,” adding that “countless millions of animals” are suffering both in the UK and overseas for food, fashion and entertainment. 

“Delivering on the plan will require understanding and real commitment. Respect for animal welfare is not only the right thing to do for animals, it will also play a critical role in tackling global environmental and public health challenges such as climate change, antibiotic resistance, and pandemic prevention,” she added.

The UK was first country in the world to pass legislation to protect animals in 1822 with the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act and later the landmark Protection of Animals Act in 1911. Since then it has carried out several reforms, ranging from banning the use of battery cages for laying hens and introducing compulsory CCTV in slaughter houses. 

France bans mass-shredding of live male chicks

In a victory against animal cruelty, the French agriculture minister Didier Guillaume announced that the practice of shredding live male chicks will be banned by 2021.

Intensive agriculture comes at a heavy cost. Sometimes, it’s deforestation and habitat destruction; other times, it’s the use of pesticides. Often, it’s the slaughter of billions of unneeded animals.

Chick culling has become an integral part of chicken raising. It is the process of killing newly hatched chicks for which the intensive animal farming industry has no use — almost always, that’s male chicks.

The culling of male chicks is practiced in all industrialized egg production, whether free-range, organic, or battery cage — because they don’t produce eggs. Sometimes, male chicks are used for fertilizing programs, but that only makes for a small percentage.

For the most part, the male chicks are killed (though in foie gras production, male ducks and geese tend to put on more weight, so females are culled).

Chicks in a shredding machine.

Most of the time, the culling process does not involve any anaesthetics. Culling methods include cervical dislocation and asphyxiation — but most often, live chicks are macerated through a high-speed grinder. Millions and millions of chicks are slaughtered this way every year.

But in France, at least, this will soon stop.

“From the end of 2021, nothing will be like it was before,” agriculture minister Didier Guillaume said on Tuesday in Paris as he announced the measure long demanded by campaigners.

A better way

France isn’t the first country to ban chick male shredding. Switzerland banned mechanical chick shredding last year, though the practice was already pretty rare in the country. Chicks in Switzerland were, and will continue to be slaughtered through other methods. But in France, things are much more ambitious, government officials have announced — it’s not just the mechanical shredding that will be banned, but all unnecessary culling.

“We want to move forward, there’s no going back. The government is committed to it,” minister Guillaume said at a press conference. “The aim is to oblige firms to do this by the end of 2021. We need to find a method that works on a large scale.”

Chicks prepared for slaughter.

The decision is based on improving diagnosis techniques. Several technologies have been developed to determine the sex of a chick before hatching. The methods rely on spectroscopy, chemical tests, or other types of imaging. The sex of the chick can be determined within 4-9 days of laying — sufficient time to determine which eggs will be allowed to hatch and which not, without incurring any suffering.

Other genetic methods also exist, such as engineering male eggs to become fluorescent.

These methods have gained increasing traction in recent years, not only from those advocating against animal cruelty, but also from farmers themselves, as the methods can reduce costs associated with culling.

Guillaume says that he wants to push a method that would allow farmers to make this detection in a cost-efficient way.