A fishy fashion accessory


‘You can’t take a goldfish for a walk…’  So goes the line in the old song ‘How much is that doggy in the window?’…but in China you CAN take a goldfish for a walk.  At the moment there is a reprehensible fad for putting tiny goldfish and other aquatic creatures such as baby soft-shell turtles and some little lizards into a plastic bubble attached to a key chain which can be attached to anything you wish – handbag,  schoolbag, front door key, whatever.

This craze began earlier in the year and outside many of the busiest metro stations here in BJ there were pedlars selling the fish which were in small squashy bags complete with chain loop. I thought it a rather unpleasant, possibly illegal, fad and assumed it would die a death (as would the poor fish) in fairly quick time.

Back in April there were a couple of articles in the press here, reporting on this craze and generally condemning it.  Even though it is not illegal to do this here in China, not everyone thinks this is a cute idea – Qin Xiaona who is director of the Beijing-based Capital Animal Welfare Association, said in an interview with Global Times (the State owned daily newspaper) “To put a living thing inside a sealed and confined space for profit is immoral and pure animal abuse.”; and  David Neale, animal welfare director of Animals Asia said  “Lack of food and diminishing oxygen concentrations within both the water and the small amount of air in these plastic pouches will cause the animals to die in a relatively short period of time after the pouches are sealed.”

What shocked me today was finding  fish in keyrings on sale at Carrefour (Jialefou) the French supermarket chain who have a big presence in China.  Slightly more up-market than those sold by street traders, the concept is identical.  Each poor little fish is in a rigid plastic sphere with a couple of tiny coloured stones at the bottom of the water and a centimeter or two of air above the water.  These had their own barcode label so that they could be scanned at the checkout, and were selling for 9 kuai (90p).  There was a stand with a whole lot of these fishy keyrings dangling from it, and next to them were lots of plastic jars – about the size of a can of food – which also had water plus a few coloured stones but they contained either two tiny fish, or another creature such as a little lizard or a little frog.  I’ve discovered that there is nothing illegal about this in China.

I am not what you would call a ‘bunny-hugger’ and I don’t like it when people anthropomorphise animals (although I confess to doing it with my dogs), however there is a limit to how living creatures should be treated and I don’t think keeping fish like this is morally accecptable.

Shame on Carrefour for selling these – I will be writing to the company chairman in France to ask him/her how they justify such a nasty item being sold in their stores.

About herschelian

Recently moved to Beijing from London - its all new to me! Trying to learn Chinese, and what makes this city tick.
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13 Responses to A fishy fashion accessory

  1. How horrible! Good luck in writing a compelling letter.

    • herschelian says:

      It is one of the strangest things I’ve seen – and for a European supermarket giant, (Carrefour are the 2nd biggest supermarket chain in the world) to jump onto such a nasty bandwagon is dreadful. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Murry says:

    I totally agree with you and will also be writing to Carrefour. Hasn’t anyone told them, or the Chinese, that all of our sea creatures are becoming extinct at an alarming rate.

    I often wonder if people reversed the idea if they would still buy something like this. What if little humans were in bubbles? Ick!

    • herschelian says:

      Hey Murray! I think that the more people who write to Carrefour the better – I can’t do anything about the street vendors, but this is one area I can tackle. BTW I don’t think any sea creatures are likely to become extinct over this, the fish, turtles, lizards, frogs etc have almost certainly been specially bred to be used – which in a way makes the morality of it even worse.

  3. Teuchter says:

    More power to your pen hand.

    We noticed that life was indeed cheap in China.
    The old men taking their caged birds out for a walk every morning was one thing. Those birds had some limited quality of life.
    Seeing children playing with a sparrow on the end of a thread while the adult stood by, smiling benignly at their cruelty, was somewhat different.

    • herschelian says:

      You are so right Teuchter – life here is very cheap – human and animal. The sparrows on a thread or a fine chain absolutely sickens me…last Saturday in Ritan Park I saw a very pretty 5/6 yr old posing for her dad to take ‘charming’ photos with just such a bird. I wish my Mandarin were better so that I could ask some questions…give me time and I’ll get there!

  4. Sheila Taylor says:

    Go for it – a nasty and totally unnecessary fad – shame on the Chinese and the French!

  5. Kit says:

    What a sad, sick craze. My 11 yo daughter is at a holiday course at the Cape Town Aquarium right now, becoming more aware of marine life and how sustainable it all is. They came back with the SASSI offical list of South African seafood that it is OK to eat or that we should think twice about ordering plus those that are endangered. They would all be horrified at such a disposable gimmick using live creatures. It’s even worse than the poor old fairground goldfish that we grew up not winning. they never survived very long and they had far more space and air than the ones in these pictures. Good luck with your letter.

  6. Pat says:

    This is just terrible. I think it’s bad enough keeping a goldfish in a bowl let alone in conditions like these.

  7. What on EARTH were they thinking – both the manufacturer and Carrefour?! As the prevous commenter said – a bowl is bad enough – but a keyring?!

    BTW – re. your comment on my vegetarian restaurant post the other day – it was a typo on my part (aaargh!) – Hiltl was founded in 1889, not 1989 – so it does pre-date Cranks. Damn my fat fingers!

  8. Katelin says:

    This is absolutely terrible!!!! You should never any animal of any sort in that small of space!!!! It breaks my heart to hear that they are doing that to poor creatures. Those creatures don’t even stand a chance. They dont realize that this is what’s killing these animals… STUPIDITY!!!!! They propably don’t even care.

  9. Sky Bailey says:

    Where can i buy one .. i so want one .. not fair

  10. Anthony says:

    Who in the world would do that to a poor helpless animal I mean seriously what did it do to you

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