Goldfish ad withdrawn, SPCA delighted
Johannesburg - The National Council of SPCAs is "delighted" that an advert featuring a goldfish struggling to breathe has been withdrawn.
"The National Council of SPCAs believes that the definition of an animal in the Animals Protection Act includes fish and that without a doubt, fish can suffer and feel pain," spokesperson Christine Kuch said in a statement on Friday.
"The NCSPCA is delighted to report on [the] landmark finding."
She was reacting to a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that an advert by the SA Cystic Fibrosis Trust, featuring a goldfish out of water on a table struggling to breathe, must be withdrawn.
In the advert, the fish is thrown back into the water after a few seconds and swims around again.
A voice-over then states: "Like a fish out of water should be an expression, not something to describe your breathing, yet today millions around the world suffer from a debilitating, terminal disease called cystic fibrosis - a disease that makes them feel like they’re about to take their last breath. The South African Cystic Fibrosis Trust needs your help…”
‘Goldfish can feel pain’
ASA received a complaint about the advert, that was flighted on DStv channels, from Ms JD Baird, who complained it showed cruelty to animals as the fish had to fight for its life.
Kuch said there was scientific proof goldfish could feel pain. There had also been no supervision by a relevant organisation, such as the NCSPCA or the Animal Anti-Cruelty League, during the shooting of the advert.
ASA confirmed the ruling, saying it was handed down on April 19.
It concluded that "given the lack of evidence of supervision or approval of the relevant footage, coupled with the potential for imitation and concomitant harm to animals, the commercial is in contravention of [the regulation]... that states that advertisers must satisfy the ASA that no animal was caused pain or distress in the course of making any advertisement".
The UK-based Telegraph reported on its website last year that scientists had done tests on goldfish to try and determine if they felt pain.
In the test, half the fish received a painkilling injection of morphine and half did not, after which all fish were exposed to painful heat.
The reactions were the same initially, but two hours afterwards, the fish that did not get morphine, "showed hovering behaviour and were less active", scientist Joseph Garner told The Telegraph.
"These are defence and fear behaviours," he said.
This proved, according to Garner, that "there is some sort of central experience of that painful stimulus".