Walmart Stops Selling Fish due to Consumer Demand, Here's Why That's a Victory for Animal Rights

Whether you won it at a fair or picked it out from a pet shop, a pet fish is a fond childhood memory for many people (up until the burial at sea at least). Compared to other animals, fish are easy to care for. No shedding, no veterinarian trips and they seldom chew stuff up. 

My first pet was a fish named Bubbles. I was obsessed. I wrote poems and songs about him. When I went on vacation and my grandparents “babysat” him, I wrote instructions on his care. They still joke about rule #4, “No dancing, it scares him.” That little blue bundle of joy lived for 3 years. I took good care of him. I bought him special shrimp treats, ensured he had enough room, changed his water and fed him regularly. 

After bonding with Bubbles for those years, I started to notice how fish looked in stores.

They seemed sick. The tanks were often filthy and many times dead fish lie at the bottom. It’s been many years since my Bubbles days, so I haven’t given this a tremendous amount of thought. That changed a few days ago when I was on the internet and read some good news: Walmart is no longer selling fish.

This is a big step in the right direction, as it is estimated that Walmart accounts for 30% of all tropical fish sales.

The way they treat these animals is anything but ideal. If the fish survive their transportation, which often includes tiny containers and starvation, they are put in filthy, overcrowded tanks. The tanks are often filled with incompatible species, and the animals either die or are taken home by someone who likely is not educated on proper care techniques for fish. Many fish require a water heater, filtration system and ample room to be healthy.

Walmart is worth $386 billion so they definitely have the means to properly care for fish. So why don’t they? Here’s the answer: it is more expensive to keep the fish alive through proper care techniques than to just keep buying more and selling the handful that survive. This isn’t a concern for most because fish are sometimes viewed as mindless and insignificant. Many people are even under the impression that fish memories only last a few seconds. According to Australian biologist Culum Brown, this is a myth. Fish can recognize other fish they have spent time with previously and “remember complex spatial maps of their surrounding[s].” Regardless of their mental capacity, fish are living beings. They feel pain and deserve to be treated well. Luckily, enough people felt this way to stop this abuse of fish. Walmart explains the reason for their decision as “consumer demand.

This victory for animal rights may be small, but as time goes on and more and more people stand up for those without a voice, the world will become a better place...for ALL its inhabitants.