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RSPCA wades into Michaelmas Fair goldfish row

Charity slams decision to allow live fish to be given away as prizes

THE RSPCA has criticised the decision to allow live goldfish to be given away as prizes at Newbury’s Michaelmas Fair.

Under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, children are allowed to take fish away as prizes, provided they are accompanied by someone over the age of 16.

However, the RSPCA said that while it is not illegal, stress, changes to water temperature and oxygen starvation can cause many of the fish to die before their new owners get them home.

One Highclere resident, Emma Fernandino, who went to the fair, said it was unnecessarily cruel.

Local authorities, in this case West Berkshire Council, have the power to decide whether or not to allow fish to be given away under its licensing contract with the organiser.

The council confirmed it has received a letter of complaint from a member of the public and, as a result, said it would now review its agreement for future fairs and that it would seriously consider putting a ban on goldfish being given away at next year’s event.

Ms Fernandino said: “I was surprised, as I’d not seen it in years. I thought we didn’t do that anymore.

“I think it’s unnecessarily cruel. The fact they are given away means that people often don’t want them. They were in plastic bags, being shaken up, taken on rides, dropped and left to die on the grass.

“When I contacted the RSPCA, they asked me whether I had any evidence that they were being given to children under 16 who were not supervised by an adult and, of course, I didn’t.

“How in this day and age is it acceptable to give live animals as prizes?”

The RSPCA confirmed that it was not illegal for fish to be given out as prizes, but added that it would investigate any evidence of mistreatment.

Laura Quinn, spokesperson for the RSPCA in Berkshire, said: “Owning any animal is a responsibility that should be planned and carefully thought through and, sadly, games offering animals as prizes just do not take this into consideration.

“Very often ‘prize’ animals suffer miserably, as environments such as a busy fairground, show or country fete is just too much for them to take.

“Goldfish particularly are often the victims of this.

“They get easily stressed and can suffer from shock, oxygen starvation or even die from changes in water temperature.

“Many fairground fish die before their new owners can even get them home.

“While games and fairgrounds can be great fun, we would strongly urge people to think responsibly and to not be tempted by stalls giving away live animals as prizes.”

The secretary of The Showmen’s Guild, Toni Bull, said it had received no complaints and added: “There is a law in place that states fish cannot be given to someone under the age of 16 if they aren’t with an adult.

“It also states they must not be displayed in plastic bags and that plastic bags can only be used to transport the fish away from the fair.

“People are given information about how to care for their goldfish. They are not given away as a prize every time.”

Do you think it’s right to give goldfish away as prizes? Should the council consider banning it? Email dan.cooper @newburynews.co.uk

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