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Old 03-04-2013, 12:31 AM   #1
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The suffering of animals, and other travesties


I fancy myself a fairly perceptive human being, and this has been bothering me for some time, so I just thought I ought to voice these concerns to the general aquarium hobbyist public.

On an unnamed website, I saw a discussion in which a girl stole a goldfish from a couple of guys at a house party because she was concerned that it was suffering. "Stole" may be a bit of a strong word here, but I had the impression that she was fairly inebriated and took the fish without permission. According to her, the fish was listless and the water was full of algae. She took it to the pet store and bought a 40 or something gallon tank for it, along with all the other equipment. The picture showed a pretty sparse set up with some live plants. Her story was received with "you are a beautiful human being" and "omg how thoughtful and kind of you!" et cetera.

On numerous occasions, I have seen people pointing fingers at others for keeping bettas in 1 gallon prisons. I have seen people rage on about the suffering of goldfish, and how if you want to do it "right", goldfish should be kept with no less than X gallons per fish (I won't make a definitive statement, because everyone has their own opinions on this matter). People get their feathers ruffled over the smallest things. I can't help but feel that these things are blown out of proportion. Granted that most people on this forum keep aquariums for their aesthetics and pleasure, so let's not even talk about the majority of hobbyists on this forum. I feel that will cloud the issue. Let's talk about your average person who puts a tank in the living room to drop a few fish in. Spending a few hundred dollars for a single $5 fish seems slightly insane for a child's first pet.

I can understand that if you have a more pricier specimen, you'll want to do things right in order to keep that animal alive and healthy enough to breed. However, to call people cruel for keeping their fish improperly is just unreasonable. I struck me that this girl chose to use such strong language to describe these gentleman whom she took the goldfish from. There is a lot of injustice in this world, so pick your battles wisely.

I feel like I have a lot more to say about cruelty to animals, but I have so many mixed emotions on this issue that it is difficult to let it all out. It's not that I advocate cruelty to animals, but I do think we need to evaluate our values so that we don't lose sight of our goals. If I want to put a little goldfish in 15 gallons, so be it. Maybe I know what I'm doing, maybe I don't. Maybe I will learn something from it. Maybe it works. Maybe it works for a while. Maybe it's a disaster. What's the big deal?
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Old 03-04-2013, 02:34 AM   #2
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Would you raise a puppy in a closet? Would you leave a horse in its stall for the entirety of its existence? For which species is it "acceptable" to provide less than an adequate environment, and what criteria do you use to make that determination?
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Old 03-04-2013, 02:55 AM   #3
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The problem I see here is equating one species with another. Problems immediately arise when you compare dogs to rats to humans to whales, and so on. A dog has many orders of magnitude greater human-like qualities than a bug. If we only consider suffering in terms of the human experience, then a dog might be said to have a greater capacity for suffering. I have tried to define terms before we start wandering into vague expressions, as David Hume calls it.

I didn't mean to say that it was acceptable to provide a less than adequate environment for any animal. I merely wanted to suggest that humans project their own feelings and emotions on other animals, sometimes unreasonable so, and that it is inappropriate to suggest that a person's supposed inhumanity to a goldfish is somehow equivalent to abusing a child, or even a dog or a rat.
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:14 AM   #4
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Default The suffering of animals, and other travesties

I suspect one of the many reasons some folks can be so passionate about the subject is animals don't have the moral failings we humans do and are therefore blameless, which means any "cruelty" shown toward them is entirely unjust.

I think injustice makes most of us angry to some degree.

Now whether each of us might liberate the captive goldfish and how we define "cruelty" - I think that might be less universal...
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:39 AM   #5
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Take several fish of similar species and size, and put one of them in a dirty, far-too-small environment. It would be easy to tell through objective observation which one was unhealthy and stressed. That does not require me to project any human qualities onto the fish. I don't have to say the fish is "suffering;" "suffering" implies emotional and psychological baggage that perhaps fish don't have. Regardless how the stress is subjectively experienced by the animal, you still have to justify purposefully subjecting it unnecessarily to stress, disease, and a premature demise. Therefore the question remains, what criteria do you use to determine which species are okay to treat in such a manner, and which are not?
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sluggo View Post
Would you raise a puppy in a closet? Would you leave a horse in its stall for the entirety of its existence? For which species is it "acceptable" to provide less than an adequate environment, and what criteria do you use to make that determination?
This is going to somehow spark a political debate, I know it.
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:49 AM   #7
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People are weird; myself included.

The same person who rants about the inhuman treatment of an unexpectedly gifted goldfish will routinely ignore the fact that the fish they bought are part of a process which results in the death of thousands of fish every day. Or they'll excuse the death of a new species in their tank as an unfortunate part of the learning process while refusing to grant someone new to the hobby the same grace.

Frankly, I think some people also just like feeling the thrill of moral righteousness. Sure, they failed to recycle, cheated on their taxes, stole post it notes from work and lied about their phone being broken to avoid a call from mom--but they still get to claim the moral high ground.
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Knotyoureality View Post
People are weird; myself included.

The same person who rants about the inhuman treatment of an unexpectedly gifted goldfish will routinely ignore the fact that the fish they bought are part of a process which results in the death of thousands of fish every day. Or they'll excuse the death of a new species in their tank as an unfortunate part of the learning process while refusing to grant someone new to the hobby the same grace.

Frankly, I think some people also just like feeling the thrill of moral righteousness. Sure, they failed to recycle, cheated on their taxes, stole post it notes from work and lied about their phone being broken to avoid a call from mom--but they still get to claim the moral high ground.
Amazing, thank you for this.
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Old 03-04-2013, 04:25 AM   #9
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I generally feel sadness and pity for most of the animals discussed on /r/aquariums and /r/plantedtank. I think it's just the lowest common denominator phenomenon going on there.
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Old 03-04-2013, 06:07 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by xand3rh0 View Post
I suspect one of the many reasons some folks can be so passionate about the subject is animals don't have the moral failings we humans do and are therefore blameless, which means any "cruelty" shown toward them is entirely unjust.
You're absolutely right, I hadn't thought about that.

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Originally Posted by Sluggo View Post
Regardless how the stress is subjectively experienced by the animal, you still have to justify purposefully subjecting it unnecessarily to stress, disease, and a premature demise.
Justify to whom, exactly? Justify to yourself? Your peers? This begs the question:

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Therefore the question remains, what criteria do you use to determine which species are okay to treat in such a manner, and which are not?
Exactly. Who is to say what is the standard for excellence? From a biologist's point of view, the animal would be better off in its natural habitat, for that is the standard. Or a restaurant would say that an excellent aquarium is aesthetically pleasing, regardless of the well being of its inhabitants.

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Originally Posted by Knotyoureality View Post
The same person who rants about the inhuman treatment of an unexpectedly gifted goldfish will routinely ignore the fact that the fish they bought are part of a process which results in the death of thousands of fish every day.
Oh man, don't even get me started on consumerism.

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Originally Posted by Knotyoureality View Post
Frankly, I think some people also just like feeling the thrill of moral righteousness.
Well you pretty much hit the nail on the head.
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:29 AM   #11
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Absolutely needless cruelty should be avoided, period.

However, the needs of the hobbyist are sometimes at odds with the needs of the pet, and some balance must be struck. With the hobby attracting every variety of person, including extremists and the perpetually clueless, it's a fertile ground for disagreements on what that balance should be.

And it will be that way until the end of time. Not limited to animals either, I could give you a list of people I know who I think shouldn't be raising children, and I'm sure most people could do the same.

I originally got into planted tanks solely to provide a better environment for fish, though now I will take measured risks with fish in order to keep the plants healthy. Is that wrong?

We do in fact have several bettas in one gallon jars. That is the simply the most practical option for now, until we can arrange for better accommodations. However, we did add live plants, plus an unused shop light and ferts so the plants could perform their function. Easy and cheap enough. The bettas have excellent water quality, they're active, and enjoy playing with the plants and other toys we give them. Is it still wrong to keep them in jars?

A couple months ago, we were contacted by a fellow running an NY animal rights activism group, who wanted to secure permission to use some of Stef's animal artwork as a logo for his group. We are both animal lovers, and were initially inclined to say yes. But a quick check of his blog revealed the following statement, "it's my goal to eventually acquire enough money and power to make veganism and the Animal Bill of Rights LAW". And that according to his Bill, this would outlaw use of animals for ANY purpose. Food (for humans or other animals), entertainment, milk, wool, etc. In addition to some suggestions that several recent and notable natural disasters were retribution for us wronging animals, doled out by a higher entity. We respectfully declined, not wanting to be associated with his ideals; to which he essentially replied, "Then what kinds of animal torture do you support and want to be associated with? I'm sure your customers would like to know." Is what he wants, or us declining wrong?

No easy answers here.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:37 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Knotyoureality View Post
People are weird; myself included.
I wouldn't raise a puppy in a closet. I don't give a second thought to those chickens that are kept in a cage not much bigger than themselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Knotyoureality View Post
The same person who rants about the inhuman treatment of an unexpectedly gifted goldfish will routinely ignore the fact that the fish they bought are part of a process which results in the death of thousands of fish every day. Or they'll excuse the death of a new species in their tank as an unfortunate part of the learning process while refusing to grant someone new to the hobby the same grace.
I don't think we do fish any favors by selling them for a buck and a half. Psychologically, $1.50 says "expendable, don't expect it to live very long, and don't think twice about replacing it when it dies in 3 months."
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:52 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Gnomecatcher View Post
Justify to whom, exactly? Justify to yourself? Your peers?
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gnomecatcher View Post
Who is to say what is the standard for excellence? From a biologist's point of view, the animal would be better off in its natural habitat, for that is the standard. Or a restaurant would say that an excellent aquarium is aesthetically pleasing, regardless of the well being of its inhabitants.
My point was that we don't have to go all bleeding-heart-animal-rights-nut to understand that we are doing harm. Stress is a neurological response that can be observed. "Suffering" is an subjective emotional response to stress. Two people can undergo the same stress. One might "suffer;" the other might not.

Stress suppresses the immune system and leads to disease and premature death. Once you understand that, the question you have to ask is, are you okay with that, and why?
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:56 AM   #14
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Would you raise a puppy in a closet? Would you leave a horse in its stall for the entirety of its existence? For which species is it "acceptable" to provide less than an adequate environment, and what criteria do you use to make that determination?
This is the problem right here. People don't understand that fish ARE NOT dogs, fish ARE NOT horses, and fish are most certainly NOT human beings. Don't compare two un-related animals to the same scenario.
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:20 PM   #15
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Fish ARE NOT dogs, fish ARE NOT horses, and fish are most certainly NOT human beings. Don't compare two un-related animals to the same scenario.
What assumptions do you make to come to these conclusions? What are the criteria you use to separate them? Is it okay to raise an Oscar in a 2.5 gallon tank? Why or why not?
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