Fish are friends, not food – or toys

Mina Buchholz, editor-in-chief

Recently, my family bought a fish. He was a betta, and we put him in a one-gallon tank in our dining room. He lived about a month. Rest in peace, Cecil.

But Cecil’s death wasn’t just an untimely accident. It was the ultimate result of a lot of stressors my family placed on him because it was convenient for us – we put him in a one-gallon tank because we didn’t want to get a bigger one, we kept him in water too cold for him because we didn’t want to get a heater, we put in a filter too strong for him because we didn’t want to go back and find a new one, we tried over and over to feed him the same fish flakes he wouldn’t eat because we didn’t want to go shopping and find food that he would eat. Cecil’s death was the final outcome of mistreatment we voluntarily engaged in. It was a tragedy.

Sure, it’s just a fish. They don’t have feelings; they don’t think. They’re not like dogs or cats, which will actually be, you know, sad if you mistreat them.

But the fact is that just because something doesn’t realize you’re hurting it, doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to hurt it. You can’t just kill things because it’s what’s convenient to you. If you really want a pet, you have to be able to take care of it. That applies to all animals, from a relatively low-maintenance lap dog to a high-maintenance snake to a misunderstood betta fish.

The thing is, a fish isn’t a toy. It’s a real animal you’ve chosen to adopt, just as much as a kitten or puppy. You don’t get to mistreat it because you didn’t think about how hard or expensive this was going to be. When we picked up Cecil at the store, we took on responsibility for his life. Now his death is on our hands.

In Cecil’s memory, I asked my parents not to purchase and kill any more fish. I still love bettas; and I hope to have an aquarium of my own one day – but I will never mistreat any animal, even a small and dumb one like a fish, just because it’s what’s easy.