Fish are way more interesting and intelligent than most people realize: Experts have found that they’re extremely complex animals who communicate with each other, form bonds, and even grieve when others die. Dr. Donald Broom, a scientific advisor to the British government, declares that, anatomically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in mammals.🐟
Fish can feel fear, pain, and stress—just like we do. Yet instead of treating them like the living beings they are, carnival organizers sometimes use them as prizes for ping pong toss, ring toss, and other games. Even people with the best intentions of caring for the fish they win can unwittingly cause these animals to suffer greatly. Here are eight reasons why people should stop offering goldfish and betta fish as prizes.
1. Carnival organizers view the animals they give away as nothing more than cheap prizes to lure people in.
And deaths resulting from incorrect handling and care—like cramming fish into plastic bags or coolers, not using filters to eliminate waste from the water, not ensuring appropriate water temperature, and more—are written off as a small cost of doing business.
2. People who win fish are usually provided with little, if any, instruction about how to care for them.
The animals who survive the trip home may die soon after. Sometimes people put fish in untreated tap water that contains chlorine, which burns their gills and causes them to suffer and slowly die from suffocation. Unlike carnivals, animal shelters have thorough screening processes for potential adopters, which helps ensure that animals will be cared for properly. Most people would be horrified if a puppy or a kitten were treated like the fish who are given as prizes.
3. PETA has received complaints from carnival attendees and fairgoers.
People say that they’ve seen fish in trashcans, left on the floor, thrown off rides, eaten alive, and shaken in the bag in which they’re kept.
4. Fish who are lucky enough to survive the first few weeks in their new environment are often discarded when the novelty of keeping such animals wears off.
Or the family tires of (or even forgets about) caring for them.
5. If they don’t get flushed down the toilet, fish are sometimes dumped into local streams and ponds.
In streams and ponds, fish are unable to fend for themselves, can die of starvation or disease, or pose risks to native wildlife and ecosystems.
6. Fish can become depressed and lethargic when isolated.
Most people win only one fish, who ends up living alone in a cramped tank or bowl.
7. Fish in captivity require the proper size tank, climate control and filtration, and lots of enrichment.
These necessities are almost never provided by carnivals.
8. PETA’s investigations of major betta fish suppliers have exposed a horrific industry that profits from treating these animals like products.
Most fish are transported from dealers to pet stores in tiny, cramped bags and containers. Approximately 90 percent of freshwater fish are raised on farms. Goldfish, for instance, are usually bred in giant tubs in facilities that produce as many as 250 million fish per year.
Ofishally drop cruelty, and always speak up if you see an animal being offered as a prize. If you see cruelty to animals anywhere, don’t hesitate to take action. Anyone can file a cruelty-to-animals complaint and ask the local animal control agency to check on an animal. Fish aren’t prizes or trinkets—they’re individuals who deserve better than to be treated as disposable things. Don’t play games that offer animals as prizes—the company running the game booth will just replace the animal that you win with another one. Playing these games encourages the “pet” trade to continue breeding fish on crowded, filthy farms.
If you or someone you know already has fish, check out this guide to caring for fish for helpful tips on keeping them happy. Never release a captive fish into the wild—and be sure to share this blog post with others! 💗