DarkCobra: I realize that not everyone who supports animal rights falls under this extreme, and in fact I believe that the specific individual you mentioned is not to be compared with most people who believe in animal rights. What he stands for is animal freedom and separation, and it chills me to think that such freedoms would be put before that of human freedoms. I am a vegetarian, but I would not blink an eye if someone ate a steak in front of me. I believe everyone deserves the right to choose.
Sluggo: I agree with you, there is no need to talk of extremist values in order to understand the harm. However, the question you pose, whether or not someone is okay with such treatment, is at the heart of the issue. What if someone was okay with it? How would you respond to them? With anger? Violence?
FisheriesOmen: I tend to agree with everything you have said. I think it follows reasonable and cogent logic. However, pain is not easily measurable, so let's not fall into a trap by arguing about things that we have no solid evidence on.
Over all, this conversation has taken a turn that I did not expect, and I would like to bring it back to the original complicated issue that I was hoping to discuss, and that is the treatment of people who do not share our own values. So again, what if someone did not share your opinions? Is that any reason to cause an uproar? Not many in our society believe that morals are subjective, so let's not have that discussion. I often find myself unreasonably agitated whenever people tout higher moral ground that others, and issue is with the person's abuse of their fellow humans, not with the morals themselves.
The girl I described in the original post used very abusive language, and even suggested that people who cannot keep a goldfish properly are somehow sub-human and should not be born. The fellow that DarkCobra described suggested that veganism be made LAW, and human rights ought to be constricted if they interfere with animal rights. This, I feel, is unacceptable.
I had a betta when I was a kid. I stuck him in 1 gallon, no plants, hardly remembered to feed him (although I did a pretty good job of cleaning out his tank weekly). I also had a dog (recently deceased due to old age, 14 is a pretty good age for a Lab!). I would do anything for that dog. She developed health problems, and for those she go the best care possible, as any beloved family member would receive. I am a long time vegetarian, for reasons I don't feel the need to justify. I don't even kill the spiders in my home, I just carry them outdoors. How can you call me cruel for my treatment of my betta? People are neither kind nor cruel because of any one decision that they make, whether or not that decision was made in ignorance or with adequate knowledge.
Newms: Thanks, that really means a lot to me! I consider myself a hobbyist philosopher. I would love to get my degree in philosophy, but I'm afraid I'm a little preoccupied with biochemistry.
Let's break down all this outrage. An "abusive girl" "saved" a goldfish from a too-small tank that was not being properly taken care of (as evidenced supposedly by a proliferation of algae and the listless behavior of the fish). She gave it a more spacious tank with clean water. You keep your betta in a one gallon tank, so you seem to feel like this girl is including you in her abuse of people in general who may or may not keep their animals in ideal conditions. You asked in your OP, "What's the big deal?" I ask you the same question: "What's the big deal?" Why do you even care about what some random, possibly drunk girl on another forum said about some people you don't know?
We probably all struggle with our feelings about taking animals from their wild environs and moving them into tanks that are much smaller than their original living space, with tank mates they probably may have never come in contact with and providing them with water, food and light conditions that are not quite the same as where they came from. You suggest in your OP that we don't need to wring our hands over all of this. You may be right, so I will say this: go ahead and stop wringing your hands over this!