Friday, November 6, 2009

Fish out of water.

This will be ranty. Hie thee to Cute Overload if you wish to avoid excessive rantiness.


Ahem. Deep breath. Let me count to 10.

It has come to my attention that as part of an end-of-summer celebration (so, around Labor Day), a public pool near us is in the practice of dumping goldfish into the water and allowing kids to go in after them.

I’ll give you a minute to process the extreme cruelty of this situation.

Keep in mind, I heard this story from someone who realized how much it would upset me, though she giggled the entire time she told it. She tried to gloss it over, assuring me that they were told to bring containers of fresh water for the fish once they were scooped out of the poisonous chlorinated water.

Even without the benefit of Google, I knew that fish and chlorine don’t mix. Chlorine is basically bleach. It is toxic. It stings. Ever been in the pool too long and had that nice chlorine afterburn in your eyes? Delightful, no? Do you want to know what it does to our fishy friends? It burns and erodes their gills. Without their gills, they can’t breathe. Without breathing, they die. If by some miracle they survive to be plopped into that container of clean water (and even tap water is chlorinated; I highly doubt these parents tested and adjusted the chemistry of their water before this little science experiment), they will still have suffered injuries and may very well die later.

In doing research to bolster my outrage, I learned a little bit about chlorine. Most tap water has a chlorine concentration of about 0.5 ppm (parts per million) at most—the EPA requires a minimum of 0.2 ppm to kill bacteria that could otherwise be harmful to humans. Swimming pools, on the other hand, frequently clock in between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm (any higher can be unsafe for swimming). Water with as little chlorine as 0.2 ppm can kill fish rapidly. Basically, even the least-chlorinated tap water is gonna poison your fish, and you’re a fucking idiot for not knowing better.

I’ve been entertaining horrifying visions of shrieking children splashing around in a frenzy, grabbing roughly at terrified fish. Meanwhile, the fish are suffocating while they desperately try to escape. Fish are exquisitely sensitive animals. They feel sound vibrations. Of course they feel pain, though some people still don’t seem to be on board with this. We all learned that they only have a three-second memory span, but it’s actually more like three months. They exhibit learning behaviors. Being pursued by screaming, flailing anything is a nightmare for any kind of fish (and mammal, and bird, and reptile….). They think they’re about to be killed, and they are.

So, that fish that my friend’s kids managed to “rescue” and bring home? He (she?) died, along with the fish that they brought home from a carnival. She told me that, when she was removing the dead fish with a paper towel, some of the orange from their scales rubbed off. Her four-year-old was dismayed, thinking it was blood. When her mother corrected her and told her it was just color from the fishes’ skin, it was all better for her.

Pity it wasn’t for the fish.

Goldfish photo ripped from Wikipedia.


  1. That is absolutely horrible. How could they even think this is okay? Ugh...people.

  2. OH MY GAWD! I can't believe that this is allowed to happen! FRACK that is disgusting! People are monsters sometimes and I can only hope for awful, awful things to befall them., fight the urge to be a vindictive vegan. Okay, I hope that they all have eye opening experiences and become vegan AR activists and stop bullshit like this!

    It is heart breaking, so heart breaking. Eating animals for food is disgusting enough but the amount of times animals have to suffer for something so absolutely trivial like this is really staggering.

  3. I often wonder how people don't recognize the pain and suffering they inflict on others. Their usual answer is "they're just fish." This, of course, infuriates those of us who feel that all beings deserve consideration and a life free from unnecessary suffering. Then I stop to remember a time when I was not yet in tune with this way of thinking. As an animal lover I always was attracted to them, but I wasn't always AWARE of the activities in which humans used animals as if they were unfeeling things. So we vegetarians/vegans/animal rights activists have to keep educating, educating, educating. Some of the idiots out there will choose to remain so. But some of the idiots out there are potential animal rights activists/vegans/vegetarians and just haven't discovered it yet. It's our job to help them realize their potential as animal advocates.