compassion for goldfish

Yesterday afternoon by 3:30, Daniel and I were driving each other up and down the walls so much I was about to break down and have a screaming fit to match the ones he was throwing every twenty minutes. It wasn't his fault, really. It was just that the weather was (still is) that perfect combination of soul-suckingly warm and muggy, and I just didn't want to go outside. But there's only so much you can do in a small house for an entire afternoon with an 18-month-old who only napped for an hour the entire day and who insists on Climbing Everything.

So I sucked it up and took him to the park. There were three little girls there with their mother, and they were walking around in the water collecting by the storm drain with fishing nets. Eventually, they made their way to the playground equipment, where the older two girls (they looked about 7 and 4, but I'm not sure of their exact ages) showed me their catch of the day: about a half dozen little goldfish swimming around in a large plastic container. They kept picking up those little fish out of the water and examining them. After about five minutes of this, I couldn't stand it anymore.

"Girls," I said, "you know those fish aren't going to live very long if you keep picking them up. They need to be in the water to breathe."

"Yeah?" said the younger one.

"Yeah, probably," said the older one.

But neither of them seemed particularly concerned about the perils of repeatedly taking a fish out of water to watch it flop.

They picked up one of the larger fish, and observed that it wasn't moving around very much, and furthermore had lost some of its scales.

"This one isn't really moving," said the Younger.

I repeated, kindly, that those fish needed to be in the water to breathe, and to live. By this time, I'm sure they'd been handled to much and too harshly to survive long, even if those girls had dumped them back in the storm drain where they had found them, but I wasn't going to say that outright.

This whole time, their mother was occupied with the youngest girl on the swingset, and probably didn't hear our conversation. I couldn't help but be a little annoyed with her and her two older daughters. There was something disturbing to me about the girls' lack of concern for the fish's well-being, and their mother's endorsement of their behavior. (If you ask me, the mom looked kind of stoned...but it could have just been the heat. I don't know.)

I know they're "only" goldfish. But they are (or rather, I'm sure I should say at this point, were) living creatures that are part of the natural environment, and they didn't deserve to be ripped away from that for no reason. These girls weren't acting out of cruelty. I think it was just ignorance and curiosity that blinded them to the suffering of those poor little fish.

Don't get me wrong. I'm SO not one of those wacko activists for "animal rights." I think members of PETA and the like are terribly misinformed (though for the most part, well-meaning). Humans are omnivores by nature, and I am not opposed to eating meat, though I am appalled by the environmental consequences and living conditions of factory-farm animals. I think animal research in science labs is necessary and justified (how else would we know what causes cancer, and for that matter, how to treat it?). I have no problem with hunting; it's actually necessary for keeping the deer population under control. (Of course, I believe hunters should only kill animals they intend to use for meat, not just for pure sport, and shooting endangered species is entirely inexcusable.) We have a couple of mouse traps in our basement for a good reason. I've annihilated many a cockroach in my day without the slightest feeling of remorse.

My point is this: while humans will always kill animals, it should never be done out of anything other than necessity, and it should always be done with respect (cockroaches notwithstanding). Those little girls at the park yesterday did not mean to be cruel to those little goldfish, but they also clearly had no idea they were harming them. I doubt that the delicate ecological balance of aquatic life in that storm drain was upset too much by missing a half dozen or so small goldfish. It sure made me think, though, about having a little more respect for life and nature. I hope someday they think about that, too.


Anonymous said…
Chalk it up to ignorance, of which there is a lot. And don't let it bother you too much.
Animal said…
All life is sacred, as each living thing has only the one. That's a good lesson to teach all humans.
I was pretty horrified the other day when I caught Jamethan and his friend Josh playing "snail baseball". Jamie was tossing the snails to Josh, and Josh was knocking them over the fence into the neighbor's yard. Yes, snails are pests. Yes, they are killing the cacti. But I do not condone using living creatures as baseballs. It's just bad karma. They both got their ears blasted. Then I went inside, and a part of me (the part that has the really macbre and warped sense of humor) snickered a little as I imagined what the poor snail thought (do snails think?) Then, once that little bit of evil humor was exercised, I was horrified again.
whoops... sorry... macabre...

word of advice. Don't drink sake that has had a couple of months to ferment even longer in the fridge just before commenting on your school chum's blog. Makes you make stupid spelling mistakes!
Suze said…
oh, jenn. i make spelling mistakes unaided by alcohol. :)
Yes, but I could never play the piano - drunk or sober - even 1/8th so well as you. We all have our talents. Mine just seems to be an unairring... er.. inheirring... umm... unherring.... (crap!)... mostly mistake-free sense of how to spell. LOL!

And good for you for sticking to it! I'm amazed by all you're tackling right now! And when I'm discouraged, and would love to say "screw the bachelors"... (ummm... bachelor's DEGREE that is)... I, too, think of my kidling and the example I'm setting for him. So, keep your chin up. You're almost there!
Pam said…
That would have bothered me, too. I don't know what I would have done in that situation, but I know it would have upset me.

Popular Posts