Sunday, October 4, 2009

And on Goldfish

Slightly indignant query from my ardently animal-rights neighbour about RSPCA policy on goldfish as prizes. I vaguely thought this had been banned under the Animal Welfare Act, but she says there was a fair nearby where fish were being offered as prizes and a mutual friend complained to the RSPCA and was told it was still legal. They clearly felt this was a pretty poor show & somehow our fault, so I assured her we certainly do have a policy against it and, in fact, had tried quite hard to get a ban into the Act.

I've done a quick search and found the exact legal position on the e-petitions website:
"The Government considers that goldfish can be given as prizes provided the welfare of the animals is met and that suffering is not being caused.

The Government understands the concerns felt by some that animals should not be given as prizes. That is why the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the “2006 Act”) restricted the law on giving animals as prizes to people aged 16 years or over. The Act makes it an offence to fail to provide for the welfare needs of animal. The maximum penalty is a fine of £5,000 or 6 months imprisonment, or both. It is also an offence to cause an animal any unnecessary suffering. The maximum penalty is a fine of £20,000 or 6 months imprisonment, or both. The 2006 Act applies to goldfish given as prizes.

Under the 2006 Act anyone can take forward a prosecution if they think they have the necessary evidence or they can report it to the relevant body (local authority or RSPCA).

The law prevents children, unaccompanied by someone aged 16 years or over, obtaining an animal as a prize The Government believes that responsible adults should be able to decide for themselves whether to enter into a competition where an animal is given as a prize."
Which unfortunately doesn't spell out that the RSPCA can't simply issue a ban by fiat — it's necessary to produce evidence that the fish are not having their welfare needs met (over and above the welfare implications of being in a plastic bag). And incidentally it means the mutual friend will probably never support the RSPCA again even though it's not really a reasonable reaction.

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