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 Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish

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Sarahdd
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Female Number of posts : 223
Age : 61
Location : USA
Job/hobbies : Breeding DD, Koi, Blue & wild blood Angelfish, Purple Moscow Guppies, & BN. Catering to 3 cats, 1 dog, & 1 husband.
Humor : Messing with the dog and the husband- the cats are on to me.
Thank You Points : 21
Registration date : 2012-12-12

PostSubject: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:21 am

Anyone who keeps and especially breeds fish is at some time faced with ethical questions regarding ending the life of a being in their care. Often that creatures existence is the direct and deliberate result of our actions - we purposely create the conditions that allow and encourage breeding. The offspring are here because of us, which makes us doubly responsible for their well being. That should never be ignored or taken lightly.
The first, and for many the most difficult issue is culling. Culling does not always mean killing, but for now I'll only consider that aspect. There are many reasons to cull, and if you breed for any length of time I don't see how you can avoid it.
One reason is sheer numbers, most fish species produce far more young than needed simply because under normal circumstances so few survive to adulthood. A predator free, temperature controlled tank with access to ample nutritious food is not normal, so many fry survive. Somehow we have to either prevent excess fry in the first place, or reduce the population through some method of culling.
Culling is also necessary in the case of deformities, especially if they interfere with normal function. But there are also minor deformities that don't actually threaten a fishes survival in a tank environment, but may look unappealing. Do we cull those?
Breeders often cull otherwise healthy fish that possess unwanted traits, or do not possess the desirable traits they are striving for. To some that practice is cruel and/or unethical,,,,,I don't believe it's as simple as that.
Culling diseased or dying fish is a personal choice. Some let nature take it's course so to speak. I believe euthanasia is not only right, but our obligation. In nature, chances are a weak, sickly fish would be found and dispatched by predators quickly. Protected in our tanks they hang on, often suffering for what seems like an eternity.
Now, a hot button issue to some- feeder fish. Provided they are as well looked after as any other fish in our care, meaning proper water, space, filtration, and food, then I haven't any problem with the practice, and I'll explain why. Those opposed to the use of feeders argue that there are perfectly adequate prepared fish foods on the market, so there is no need to feed live. The other side will state there are species that simply won't accept anything else, and also that live is more natural, nutritious, and stimulating.
Both sides I believe are missing an important point. The main ingredient in a majority of packaged fish foods is fish or fish meal, which means at some point fish died in order to feed your fish. Just because you don't see it doesn't make their deaths less real, nor I imagine particularly quick or humane if you have ever seen footage of commercial fishing. I think the fast, no nonsense actions of a hungry gar or oscar are preferable to being netted and hauled crushed and gasping onto the deck of a boat.
I wrote this because I found these issues difficult, I still do, and I had to find answers I could live with if I was to continue breeding. Most important to me was learning how to humanely euthanize fish when necessary. It's still an unhappy task, but I can sleep at night.
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marty14
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Registration date : 2012-07-04

PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:33 pm

Sarahdd wrote:
Anyone who keeps and especially breeds fish is at some time faced with ethical questions regarding ending the life of a being in their care. Often that creatures existence is the direct and deliberate result of our actions - we purposely create the conditions that allow and encourage breeding. The offspring are here because of us, which makes us doubly responsible for their well being. That should never be ignored or taken lightly.
The first, and for many the most difficult issue is culling. Culling does not always mean killing, but for now I'll only consider that aspect. There are many reasons to cull, and if you breed for any length of time I don't see how you can avoid it.
One reason is sheer numbers, most fish species produce far more young than needed simply because under normal circumstances so few survive to adulthood. A predator free, temperature controlled tank with access to ample nutritious food is not normal, so many fry survive. Somehow we have to either prevent excess fry in the first place, or reduce the population through some method of culling.
Culling is also necessary in the case of deformities, especially if they interfere with normal function. But there are also minor deformities that don't actually threaten a fishes survival in a tank environment, but may look unappealing. Do we cull those?
Breeders often cull otherwise healthy fish that possess unwanted traits, or do not possess the desirable traits they are striving for. To some that practice is cruel and/or unethical,,,,,I don't believe it's as simple as that.
Culling diseased or dying fish is a personal choice. Some let nature take it's course so to speak. I believe euthanasia is not only right, but our obligation. In nature, chances are a weak, sickly fish would be found and dispatched by predators quickly. Protected in our tanks they hang on, often suffering for what seems like an eternity.
Now, a hot button issue to some- feeder fish. Provided they are as well looked after as any other fish in our care, meaning proper water, space, filtration, and food, then I haven't any problem with the practice, and I'll explain why. Those opposed to the use of feeders argue that there are perfectly adequate prepared fish foods on the market, so there is no need to feed live. The other side will state there are species that simply won't accept anything else, and also that live is more natural, nutritious, and stimulating.
Both sides I believe are missing an important point. The main ingredient in a majority of packaged fish foods is fish or fish meal, which means at some point fish died in order to feed your fish. Just because you don't see it doesn't make their deaths less real, nor I imagine particularly quick or humane if you have ever seen footage of commercial fishing. I think the fast, no nonsense actions of a hungry gar or oscar are preferable to being netted and hauled crushed and gasping onto the deck of a boat.
I wrote this because I found these issues difficult, I still do, and I had to find answers I could live with if I was to continue breeding. Most important to me was learning how to humanely euthanize fish when necessary. It's still an unhappy task, but I can sleep at night.
Regarding your argument with feeder fish I do not think we should keep fish that need only live fish to survive. It is a hoppy we are practicing and we can choose the type of animals in our care. So in order to maintain our enjoyment we invoke suffering on a living creature. There are many types of fish we should not be keeping for various reasons and not using feeder fish is another reason why we should not keep them. There are plenty of types of prepared fish foods covering the full nutritional need of our fish. Plus also do not forget that the use of feeder fish often leads to the spread of disease to the fish we want to keep and also there can be a problem by not providing a varied diet.
Marty Very Happy
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Sarahdd
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Female Number of posts : 223
Age : 61
Location : USA
Job/hobbies : Breeding DD, Koi, Blue & wild blood Angelfish, Purple Moscow Guppies, & BN. Catering to 3 cats, 1 dog, & 1 husband.
Humor : Messing with the dog and the husband- the cats are on to me.
Thank You Points : 21
Registration date : 2012-12-12

PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:58 am

Hi Marty,

I agree with you on some points, esp that many species sold are unsuitable for the average aquarist to provide for such as those that attain very large size, red tail catfish, tinfoil barbs, for example. But I don't think species requiring live food fall in the same category.
There are many ways of insuring a clean, safe source of feeders, particularly breeding your own, which also insures their treatment is humane.
I can only repeat my main point- unless one keeps strictly 100% herbivorous species, which are rare, then you are feeding another animal to it regardless of whether you do so directly or use a prepared food- someone had to kill and process the fish that go into making fish foods.
It is gratifying to know there are people like you who don't regard fish as lesser unfeeling beings to be exploited at any cost. I don't either, we just differ on the details I guess.
Sarah Smile
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marty14
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PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:50 am

Sarahdd wrote:
Hi Marty,

I agree with you on some points, esp that many species sold are unsuitable for the average aquarist to provide for such as those that attain very large size, red tail catfish, tinfoil barbs, for example. But I don't think species requiring live food fall in the same category.
There are many ways of insuring a clean, safe source of feeders, particularly breeding your own, which also insures their treatment is humane.
I can only repeat my main point- unless one keeps strictly 100% herbivorous species, which are rare, then you are feeding another animal to it regardless of whether you do so directly or use a prepared food- someone had to kill and process the fish that go into making fish foods.
It is gratifying to know there are people like you who don't regard fish as lesser unfeeling beings to be exploited at any cost. I don't either, we just differ on the details I guess.
Sarah Smile
Just bear in mind that mostly the food selected to make fish food are the off-cuts from human fish production. Thus using things that would be thrown out anyway.
Marty Very Happy
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Sarahdd
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Female Number of posts : 223
Age : 61
Location : USA
Job/hobbies : Breeding DD, Koi, Blue & wild blood Angelfish, Purple Moscow Guppies, & BN. Catering to 3 cats, 1 dog, & 1 husband.
Humor : Messing with the dog and the husband- the cats are on to me.
Thank You Points : 21
Registration date : 2012-12-12

PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:35 am

Just bear in mind that mostly the food selected to make fish food are the off-cuts from human fish production. Thus using things that would be thrown out anyway.
Marty Very Happy [/quote]

I wish that were true, but it simply isn't. The production of fish meal is a multibillion $ industry. At best about 25% of the raw materials are recycled trimmings and waste products from human food processing. The majority of it is made from whole fish, mostly small pelagic species, harvested specifically for that purpose.

The industry is actually somewhat controversial from ecological and sociological corners, I'm not certain where I stand on those!

Happy we can amicably agree to disagree scratch
Sarah
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ktk05
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PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:54 am

This issue of feeder fish was brought up here before once, though I can't remember exactly where... Of all the fish keepers and hobbyist I've ever discussed this with in the States seem to have no reserve on feeder fish. Most in fact, (myself included) never knew that anybody took issue to it. I'd have to agree that whether or not your fish is eating a live fish in your tank or commercially prepared food, other fish will have died! I am also pro raising your own feeders to prevent feeding sick fish and to ensure humane treatment of the feeder fish.

As for culling, I have no reservations when it comes to culling deformed or sickly fry. Culling for the sake of population management and undesirable characteristics (coloring, fin length, ect...) I find to be very irresponsible.
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Sarahdd
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Female Number of posts : 223
Age : 61
Location : USA
Job/hobbies : Breeding DD, Koi, Blue & wild blood Angelfish, Purple Moscow Guppies, & BN. Catering to 3 cats, 1 dog, & 1 husband.
Humor : Messing with the dog and the husband- the cats are on to me.
Thank You Points : 21
Registration date : 2012-12-12

PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:43 am

"Culling for the sake of population management and undesirable characteristics (coloring, fin length, ect...) I find to be very irresponsible." quote

As I stated in my original post, I don't believe the issue is that simple.

For example, I breed Angelfish. A good healthy female can easily lay over 1000 eggs in a single spawn, and spawn every 10 days. I cannot raise that many, nor do I have an outlet for that many. So I must cull for numbers. I could reduce the eggs to the number I wish to raise (usually around 50) but a percentage of eggs may be infertile or destroyed by fungus, so it makes sense to hatch the spawn, then reduce.

I also have pairs that produce different colors, and I may need more of a certain color out of a particular spawn, such as platinum or golds and not need as many, say, black streaked, so I cull to select the 50 or so in the color I want.

Most importantly IMO, I cull in order to select the most vigorous, fast growing, well formed, fry. Any fry substantially smaller than the rest I cull. This matters! Those fry are not necessarily sick, because they are in a tank they will survive, and worst of all, they may even eventually breed. When I see tiny, poorly shaped, thin finned, pathetic little angelfish being offered for sale in pet shops I want to scream. That is what happens when you breed quantity with no culling for proper fins, size, shape, vigor, etc. That in my mind is irresponsible.

I also breed fancy guppies, and here there is no option of egg reduction. Size, shape, finnage and color matter greatly- if you don't select for it and cull ruthlessly you will soon have dozens of tanks full of guppies that barely resemble what you wanted, and no one else will want them either.

The fry I cull I feed my other fish, as do most breeders I know. It would be a waste of a valuable, nutrient rich food to do otherwise. Sick fish, or those too large to be used as food are euthanized with an overdose of anesthetic.

... if every fish born, survived, there would be no room for anything else on earth! affraid
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ktk05
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PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:41 pm

You know I never even thought of feeding off unwanted fry as a method of culling. IMO that is a pretty good idea, as you know exactly what you're feeding your fish. I was imagining Flushing or freezing these guys because There're too many or they're the qrong color...You can even "gut load" similarly to when feeding reptiles insects. So you are right when you say this issue is not simple. I breed/raise swordtails (BNs whenever my little one grow up!) So far I have only culled 1 deformed fry and 1 sickly one that didn't respond to treatment. I guess I am lucky in that I have many outlets for my fry ( friends, family, local fish club, local pet shops, and the Internet.)

Anyone else have input on these matters? This has proven to be a very respectful place to discuss the more controversial aspects of the hobby.
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Sarahdd
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Female Number of posts : 223
Age : 61
Location : USA
Job/hobbies : Breeding DD, Koi, Blue & wild blood Angelfish, Purple Moscow Guppies, & BN. Catering to 3 cats, 1 dog, & 1 husband.
Humor : Messing with the dog and the husband- the cats are on to me.
Thank You Points : 21
Registration date : 2012-12-12

PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:46 pm

ktk05 wrote:
You know I never even thought of feeding off unwanted fry as a method of culling. IMO that is a pretty good idea, as you know exactly what you're feeding your fish. I was imagining Flushing or freezing these guys because There're too many or they're the qrong color...You can even "gut load" similarly to when feeding reptiles insects. So you are right when you say this issue is not simple. I breed/raise swordtails (BNs whenever my little one grow up!) So far I have only culled 1 deformed fry and 1 sickly one that didn't respond to treatment. I guess I am lucky in that I have many outlets for my fry ( friends, family, local fish club, local pet shops, and the Internet.)

Anyone else have input on these matters? This has proven to be a very respectful place to discuss the more controversial aspects of the hobby.

You are correct, you can indeed gut load fry. I usually give mine an extra heavy feed of live bbs beforehand, partly to load, and to be quite honest, mainly because I want them to have a favorite "last meal". Culling is necessary, but still not something I enjoy.

I have never had swordtails, what type(s) do you breed? There are so many beautiful varieties! Do you have to separate adults from the fry? I've found as long as guppies are well fed and there are plenty of floating plants for hiding, there is very little cannibalism. I feel breeding traps are stressful on heavily gravid females, though I know many breeders use them successfully.

As for FLUSHING or FREEZING,,,,arggggg!!!! Evil or Very Mad doing either IS extremely irresponsible, and also cruel as neither method is even remotely humane.

You are also correct about this forum. I too have found the exchange of information and opinions both invaluable and very respectful. cheers
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ktk05
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PostSubject: Re: Ethical issues: culling, euthanasia, & use of live feeder fish   Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:12 am

I am actually working on re-establishing an old line of swordtails that are black with red fins. Good results so far but nothing that breeds 100% true. I am also looking to develop an extremely red pineapple sword vatiety that grows to be much larger than the swordtails we commonly see at the LFSs. These projects are really quite a time investment more than anything else!

I generally seperate the females 5 weeks after their last drop into a marina HOB breeder box. These females normally stay in the box for 1-6 days and I have suffered no loss of female or fry. Fry left to themselves are normally eaten whereas my Molly fry would not be eaten.
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