‘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.