Tuesday, 4 November 2008



'The more I learn about the RSPCA and its policies, the more I think it is anti-pet', says Jeremy Gay.
I've just returned from the fourth Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) conference in Buxton, Derbyshire. OATA do many key things to aid the aquatics industry and its members, like working with CEFAS and DEFRA, making sure that imports of fish are allowed through, and basically lots of behind the scenes stuff that makes sure that our hobby continues to be what it is today, and could grow to be in the future.They are a trade organisation, so only retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers can join. Many of their policies concur with what shops, experts and hobbyists feel is fair to fish and the right way to handle and sell them. They address many crucial matters along the supply chain too as the fish travel from reef or river to retailer.You would think then that such an organisation would be able to work closely with the RSPCA, who are essentially an animal welfare organisation, and probably the most famous animal charity in the world. But the answer is, apparently not.
RSPCA policies
The RSPCA have several policies that if OATA adhered to, and we all had to adhere to, the fishkeeping hobby in the UK would be a very different place indeed. In my opinion, and the opinion of many OATA delegates, that is certainly not a place where we want to be.Referring to my news story on the OATA event, I've highlighted several RSPCA policies that John Rolls, RSPCA Director of Animal Welfare Promotion, read out to the OATA delegates, which he believed were relevant to them.
The first is policy that raised my eyebrows was policy 3.1.2 that states: "The RSPCA is opposed to any degree of confinement which is likely to cause distress or suffering to the animals concerned."Whether we all admit to it or not, fish tanks cause confinement and can cause distress or suffering to fish so if you want to stick with the RSPCA and their thoughts on animal welfare, you had better ditch that tank.
Purchase from the breeder
The next one to catch my significant attention was policy number 3.2.1 which states that: "The RSPCA advocates that all animals should be acquired by the prospective owner from the place where they were born or from an RSPCA animal centre (or other reputable rescue organisation)."For those who know anything at all about our hobby, they will know that many fish species are wild caught, and even though many more are captive bred, the majority are bred in hot countries far away from the UK. To acquire a Platy we would have to travel to Singapore to go and get it, as that is where the owner will be, and that is where it would have been born. And correct me if I am wrong, but I am not aware of any RSPCA animal centres that re-home fish (although such a place would be a great idea - you could go and buy a rehomed Oscar for instance.)
Opposed to wild caught animals
Policy 9.6.1 states that: "The RSPCA is opposed to the trade in wild caught animals and products derived from them."This is great in respect to seahorses taken in their millions for the Chinese medicine trade, or shark finning, for example, that every fishkeeper is absolutely opposed to. But follow it word for word and you can say 'goodbye' to your plecs, most of your marines and in fact, most of your catfish and hundreds if not thousands of other wild caught, traded species.Furthermore, on the morning before Mr Rolls speech, Project Piaba advised that the trade in wild caught cardinal tetras on the Rio Negro is both sustainable and supports thousands of people, helping to alleviate poverty and protecting natural resources and biodiversity by preventing the local populations from logging, mining and generally wrecking the natural environment around them.
Opposed to captive-bred wild animals
And lastly Policy 9.6.2 reads that: "The RSPCA is opposed to the trade in captive-bred wild animals and products derived from them, where there are grounds for believing that suffering may in practice be caused as a result of breeding, holding, transportation or use of the animal."I read in to this that they should only be opposed to captive bred wild type animals if they believe that trade in them causes suffering, but then that leads to me the first policy that I highlighted, that I read into meaning that tanks, vats etc cause stress and suffering so if everyone adhered to that all that was left in the hobby that wasn't wild caught, but was bred from stocks that once were, there would be no species left. This has further connotations and meanings for the rest of the pet trade too, as every animal that is in captivity had ancestors that were once wild, and can now be classed as confined.
Unworkable for the aquatic trade
I made a statement to John Rolls that in my opinion, the aquatics trade could not adhere to the above four policies, and also put it to him that in my opinion, although I would not hesitate in going to the RSPCA over matters of furry animal welfare like cats dogs, horses etc, I believe that few if any RSPCA representatives know anything at all about the proper welfare of fish. I also asked who they would get involved in matters of fish welfare cases and how they would prosecute a retailer for example on a matter that they seem to know very little about. Mr Rolls stated that he would not be pressed to an answer there and then but that they would probably consult a vet. I put it to him that even the vets know very little about fish in the majority of cases and that if there was a welfare issue that the best organisation to consult would be OATA.
He replied that there had not been a prosecution in 11 years, which I interpreted to mean that given their lack of prosecutions and seeming lack of experience in fish, to ignore anything that the RSPCA has to say about our hobby.Keith Davenport of OATA asked Mr Rolls if the RSPCA would rather that fish were not sold in shops. He did not offer an answer, but in answer to many of the questions posed to him he invited OATA delegates to write to him. No one cares more about the welfare of animals than me. I love natural history and have several pets, but the more I learn about the RSPCA and its policies on the keeping of animals in captivity, the more I feel that it is anti-pet.

1 comment:

Barnum said...

bloody rspca will want us all to be veggies and not keep pets, have zoos or go to the circus, i'll bet its a barrel of laughs at their xmas party