Live feeding: a crime? Feedback from DEFRA

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Having become concerned at some of the complacency within the trade regarding the situation of feeding live fish to other fish, I have spent some time trying to clarify the issue, finding just where the legislation stands on this controversial and often inflammatory issue.

In a forthcoming edition of PFK I will be presenting an analysis of some of the arguments used in justifying live feeding of fish, as well as the responses both counter and sympathetic to them. However, in the short term I can quote some of the correspondence that I have had with DEFRA on the matter.

As an overview, the 2006 Animal Welfare Act introduced a duty of care applicable to all vertebrate animals purchased within the pet industry, and it is this act that I shall be scrutinising in my future article.

Strikingly, the first comment made in a reply email from a DEFRA contact was that "the practice of feeding live prey is not expressly prohibited in this country," although as the letter continues, this does not give an immediate green light to keepers wanting to race out and feed their piranha on living goldfish. Various caveats and clauses still suggest that in the act of providing a live fish as food, you are breaking a law, despite this ambiguous start.

DEFRA promptly add that, "Under 4 of the 2006 Act it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to animals under the control of man."

They further go on to say that " may be considered as causing unnecessary suffering to either the prey or, conceivably, the predator if the prey injures the predator in any struggle."

At this time and as far as this author knows, no specific case has been presented to the legal system regarding the live feeding of a fish, and DEFRA add "it would be for the courts to decide whether such an activity constituted an offence under the 2006 Act."

They add, "section 9 of the 2006 Act also introduces a duty to promote welfare and the practice you describe may be considered contrary to good welfare practice."

DEFRA reiterate that it is the role of the courts and not themselves to determine whether such methods contravene this section of the Welfare Act.

I write this blog with the intention to generate responses, as I genuinely want to hear what the views of retailers, hobbyists and even the lay outsider are towards this issue. Any reasonable response will be considered as a part of my analysis, and from my position I am completely open to all arguments on either side of the fence.