UK City Council Unanimously Votes To Ban Live Animal ‘Prizes’
person holding a plastic bag with two goldfish inside A councilor described live animal prizes as "outdated" - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

UK City Council Unanimously Votes To Ban Live Animal ‘Prizes’

Live animals will often die within days after being "won" by people ill-equipped to care for them

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3 Minutes Read

Fairgrounds and other establishments will no longer be able to offer live animals as prizes in Huntingdonshire after the council unanimously voted to ban them.

The district, located in east-central England, follows in the footsteps of 22 other councils in England, five in Wales, and the whole of Scotland. 

Fish have famously been offered as prizes in plastic bags at fairgrounds throughout the UK. But the tradition has repeatedly been blasted by animal rights groups.

According to PETA, many goldfish won at fairs will die within days. This is due to the fact that they are given to people who aren’t able to look after them. 

Councilor Simon Bywater said such prizes were an “outdated practice,” adding that having pets is a “big responsibility and is often costly”.

It will now be illegal for any animal to be offered as a prize on Huntingdonshire land. The ban will cover social media prizes, as well as businesses. 

Are live animal prizes cruel?

PETA notes that animal prizes are often thrown off rides, tossed into rubbish bins, or left to starve or suffocate inside the tiny plastic bags they were handed over in. 

“Funfairs are no fun at all for goldfish, who are intelligent, social beings with the ability to feel pain, not trinkets to be handed out.,” a PETA spokesperson told Plant Based News (PBN). “Despite their complex needs, fish are seen as cheap and easy to keep, and those given away as prizes inevitably end up in homes ill prepared to care for them.”

While many people believe that fish aren’t sentient and have very short memories, this has shown to be inaccurate by scientists. 

Writing In her book Do Fish Feel Pain?, biologist Victoria Braithwaite said that “there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals.”

Experts have also refuted the claim that fish have three second memories. 

Culum Brown, an expert in fish cognition at Macquarie University in Australia, previously told Live Science: “We’ve known about the reasonably good memories of goldfish since the ’50s and ’60s… Despite what everybody thinks, they’re actually really intelligent.”

The move to ban live animal prizes

While there is a blanket ban on live animal prizes in Scotland, it is currently up to individual councils throughout the rest of the UK. 

Earlier this year, the RSPCA urged Wales to introduce a nation-wide ban on the practice. The animal welfare charity said at the time that the animals often suffered poor living conditions. 

“Animal ownership is a big responsibility – and goldfish shouldn’t be acquired via a spur-of-the-moment game,” said RSPCA Cymru’s Chris O’Brien.

Animal rights groups are calling for an outright ban on live animal prizes throughout the UK. 

Georgie Morris, a campaigner at Viva!, told PBN that, while the move from Huntingdonshire is a “step in the right direction,” we must go further to put an end to live animal prizes.  

“I would like to see this ban implemented across the country rather than just in certain local authorities, as well as legislation outlawing the use of animals for entertainment,” she said. “Whether it’s winning a goldfish as a prize or betting on a horse race, animals are not ours to exploit under the guise of entertainment.”

A spokesperson for PETA added:All councils should immediately ban the practice of giving away goldfish – and all other animals – as prizes, and visitors to funfairs should avoid funding any stalls where they are offered.”

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The Author

Polly Foreman

Polly is the Deputy Editor of Plant Based News. She has been vegan since 2014, and has written extensively on veganism, animal rights, and the environment.

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