Protection of carp – is it just a slogan or a binding law?

Ochrona karpi

Selling live carp before Christmas is a tradition and big business. Animal rights activists, however, are sounding the alarm that commercial practices contradict existing laws and should be severely punished. What is carp protection and what should you know before you go Christmas shopping?

Long struggle against cruel customs

Until four decades ago, swimming carp in a bathtub was an integral part of the holidays. At the time, few people wondered how the fish felt. However, modern zoologists argue that although their nervous system is much less developed than in humans, carp feel pain and stress in their own way. Their source can be storage in tanks that are too small, pulling out of the water and, in particular, sloppy killing.

In Poland, the Gaia Foundation began taking steps to limit the sale of live carp 25 years ago. The public campaign Don’t buy live carp is constantly urging consumers to boycott the holiday tradition and report individual protests to the Chief Veterinarian. Over the years, carp conservation has become a priority for many other NGOs, and Polish celebrities have become involved in awareness-raising campaigns. The biggest breakthrough in the fight against cruelty to carp came in the Supreme Court’s December 13, 2016 ruling. – success crowning a six-year court battle led by attorney Karolina Kuszlewicz on behalf of the Leg to Paw Foundation.

Sale of live carp and legal regulations

The protection of carp derives from the provisions of the Law on the Protection of Animals of August 21, 1997 (hereafter: u.o.z.). As Karolina Kuszlewicz argues in her publications, the law is clearly broken at several stages of pre-Christmas practices. As animal abuse prohibited under Art. 6 paragraph. 2(10) or (18) of the U.O.Z. should be considered as keeping live carp without water or in crowded tanks, lining them up on a counter, transporting them in plastic bags, forcing them into unnatural body positions, and keeping them in chlorinated tap water. In addition, homemade methods of killing carp should be treated as a crime under Art. 33 para. 1a u.o.z. or Art. 34 par. 4(2) of the u.o.z., if children are involved in the process.

In the aforementioned ruling, the Supreme Court affirms the carp’s natural right to be in an aquatic environment and the humane treatment that all vertebrates are entitled to under the law. Thus, the protection of carp became a legal fact that lower courts had to recognize as well.

Carp protection increasingly effective

Over the past few years, the vast majority of retail chains have abandoned selling live carp in favor of fillets and gutted fish. A growing number of consumers also say they oppose unethical practices, according to a 2021 survey. by CBOS on behalf of the Compassion in World Farming Foundation Poland, nearly 60 percent of Poles support a ban on the sale of live carp.

The first sentences also appear. In 2020. The three accused vendors were found guilty of abusing Christmas fish. A year later, two men who tormented and gutted carp still alive in Lodz were sentenced to community service and a fine. According to Karolina Kuszlewicz, however, charges for violating the Animal Rights Law can be brought against both sellers and buyers. Vendors according to the 2016 ruling. should have a say in how the fish is packaged for transport, but it is up to the buyer to decide how he gets it home, how he stores it and how he puts it to death.

What can be done in defense of carp?

Unfortunately, the situation is still far from ideal. The markets and this year will again have tanks of live fish, for which customers will line up. Anyone who witnesses carp being subjected to suffering can respond by calling the police. It is a good idea to secure evidence in the form of video recordings, photos or accounts from other witnesses. It’s also a good idea to inform an animal rights NGO of your choice about violations of the law. Protection of carp, according to Kuszlewicz, should also be a priority for city authorities, who decide on the type of economic activities carried out in commercial open spaces. Regardless of the local government’s responsibility, the Parliamentary Group of Friends of Animals is currently preparing a bill to ban the sale of live carp, which should soon appear in the Parliament.

Not everyone agrees

As is the case with controversial issues, the topic of Christmas carp also has another, quite different side. Zbigniew Szczepanski, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fish Promotion Society, refers to Counselor Kuszlewicz’s accusations with great detachment. In his opinion, it is not true that the law is repeatedly broken at marketplaces. According to the recommendations of the Chief Veterinarian, in most cases customers wish to have the fish professionally killed on site – they just want to be sure they are bringing home a fresh carp. The short-term removal of fish from the water, on the other hand, is an indispensable part of farming and fishing and should definitely not be considered in the context of a criminal act.

Chairman Szczepanski admits that violations of good practices among vendors do happen, and definitely deserve police interference. However, this is an exception to the rule. A total ban on the sale of live carp, meanwhile, would hit market owners who cannot be blamed for such incidents, the vast majority of honest and reliable sellers, and above all, consumers who prefer high-quality, fresh, regional products over anonymous supermarket offerings.

December 20 marked Fish Day, and you can find more information about these creatures in our article. It’s important to understand their role in the ecosystem. In the context of Christmas, where the tradition of selling live carp is deeply rooted, it is important to remember their welfare and to protect them.

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