Hands off my hobby!
Keeping shouting about what you love about your hobby
We relaunched our Hands Off My Hobby campaign in January 2015 in the run-up to the General Election in the UK, due to take place on Thursday May 7th.
We want those who work in the industry and hobbyists to join us in asking all UK political parties to recognise that keeping fish is just as acceptable as having a dog, cat, rabbit or guinea pig as a pet and we want them to promise to oppose any future ban on exotic and wild caught species that would affect ornamental fish-keeping.
Animal rights’ groups want to prevent people from keeping ‘exotic’ or ‘wild’ pets and we should be under no illusion that this includes fish. They are campaigning to convince people that keeping these kinds of pets is wrong. And many of their campaigns focus on introducing bans on the importation and sale of wild-caught and exotic species, like ornamental fish.
If these groups succeed with their aims then it would spell the end of the ornamental fish-keeping hobby – and the livelihoods the industry sustains because ‘exotic’ means anything not native to this country. That would leave us with just rudd and tench for our ponds. All aquarium species, including fish, corals and other invertebrates like shrimp and snails, are ‘exotic’ – whether captive bred or not. And if there are no fish there’s no trade or hobby – fish account for only a percentage of sales for the industry but without them there’s no need for tanks, filters, food, medicines, plants etc. It would decimate the ornamental fish-keeping hobby and the livelihoods the hobby supports.
We need politicians to start to understand that keeping exotic and wild-caught species as pets includes ornamental fish – and the people who keep them are not ‘bad’ people. In the run-up to the 2015 General Election, we want politicians to realise ornamental fish-keeping brings a lot of pleasure to people, as well as social, economic and health benefits to the UK and beyond, and is important to their voters – and that means you! If we don’t all start to shout ‘Hands Off My Hobby’ to politicians now then these animal campaign groups could be successful in their quest for a future ban that could mean the end to your hobby or livelihood.
Eurogroup for Animals has organised a conference in the European Parliament in October 2014 called Putting Animal Welfare at the heart of the EU. As a small trade association we can’t afford to put on such lavish conferences in Brussels but we still want our voice heard on the issue. So we have written to all UK MEPs in advance of the conference (read our letter here) and sent them plenty of useful information on why pet ownership is beneficial to the UK and EU – pointing out that pets come in all shapes, sizes and species – and a leaflet explaining why wild caught and exotic fish can be good news for everyone. We also alerted fellow trade and government bodies about the conference as well. The conference sought to cover many of Eurogroup for Animals’ campaigns, from pigs to horses and its European Exotic Pet Campaign – where you’ll see that the first pets to get a mention are fish.
We also put together a list of frequently asked questions to help MEPs.
Please feel free to download our leaflet and share with customers and friends and here’s an image of the inside which you can use on your social media channels. And please don’t forget to use the #handsoffmyhobby hashtag!
How our #handsoffmyhobby campaign started
Our #handsoffmyhobby campaign was launched in March 2014 in response to the Brussels-based Eurogroup for Animals. In the run-up to the European elections it was urging MEPs to sign up to a #votes4animals pledge to show their support on ‘animal welfare’. This pledge was part of a broader manifesto that MEPs were saying they would campaign for. But we had noticed that, buried within this manifesto, was a call to “ban the import of wild-caught animals and restrict the number of exotic species that can be imported and traded in the EU, in line with EU policies which tackle related concerns including human health, animal health and the protection of the environment.”
While a ban on wild-caught animals was concerning enough – particularly if you are into marines – it was also the call to limit ‘exotic species’ that sounded like the death knell to the fishkeeping hobby. Why? Because the definition of an exotic species is ‘a plant or animal species introduced into an area where they do not occur naturally – a non-native species’. Our fear is that this catch-all statement would basically cover tropical marine or freshwater fish, corals, soft corals or other invertebrates because all these are either wild-caught and/or exotic (which means they’re not native to Europe, even if captive-bred in the EU). Effectively that could wipe out the hobby across Europe.
So we asked hobbyists and businesses to lobby their MEP in the run-up to the Euro elections to let them know about the implications of signing this pledge. By polling day on May 22, 2014, a total of 36 UK signatories had put their name to the pledge – a mixture of MEPs and prospective candidates. You can see the list at the bottom of this page.
But even though the elections are now over, our #handsoffmyhobby campaign continues. Eurogroup for Animals has turned its #votes4animals campaign into #act4animals and it now intends to follow up on the pledge MEPs signed up to. It says: “Eurogroup will use the hashtag #act4animals to raise awareness of the issues that remain to be addressed and focus the minds of the elected MEPs…. Over the next five years we need the Parliament to challenge the Commission and the Council to ensure that the large number of animal species that are currently overlooked and which are not covered by existing legislation is drastically reduced. In addition we need the Parliament to exert pressure to ensure that enacted legislation is not being flouted in Member States but enforced effectively. Finally we need the Parliament to show that despite the economic crisis animal welfare is not a low priority.”
We all sign up to the idea of animal welfare but there is also a bigger picture. Even if you just look at the fishkeeping hobby in the UK there are:
- more than 3 million homes with an aquarium or pond
- about 100 million fish kept by hobbyists
- more than 10,000 people who work in the ornamental fish industry
- £400 million spent on the hobby each year
- in excess of 10 million homes with an aquarium in the EU
And wild caught fish are helping to improve the lives of people who live in some of the remotest parts of the world. Supplying the aquarium industry does bring social, economic and environmental benefits to these communities and here are some examples of this in action:
LINI is non-governmental organisation working to support the livelihoods of local fishermen in Indonesia to promote a sustainable industry
Palmera Project funds social enterprise projects including one that is helping women in Sri Lanka develop a livelihood from ornamental fish.
Want to know what we were up against?
You can find Eurogroup for Animals’ #vote4animals campaign website here. This is the list of the MEPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates who signed the #vote4animals manifesto (with the area they represent/want to represent and affiliations) in the run-up the European elections in 2014:
- Edward McMillan-Scott – Yorkshire & the Humberside, Lib Dems
- Ian Hudghton – Scotland, SNP
- Bill Newton Dunn – East Midlands, Lib Dems
- Jill Evans – Wales, Plaid Cymru
- Keith Taylor – South East, Green
- Alyn Smith – Scotland, SNP
- Arlene McCarthy – North West, Labour
- Michael Cashman – West Midlands, Labour
- Catherine Stihler – Scotland, Labour
- Brian Simpson – North West, Labour
- David Martin – Scotland, Labour
- Derek Vaughan – Wales, Labour
- Linda Mc Avan – Yorkshire and Humberside, Labour
- Glenis Willmott – East Midlands, Labour
- Peter Skinner – South east, Labour
- Jean Lambert – London, Green
- Richard Howitt – Eastern, Labour
- Claude Moraes – London, Labour
- Jonathan Fryer – Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for London, Lib Dem
- Rory Palmer Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for East Midlands, Labour
- Ulrike Zeshan Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Green
- Peter Cranie Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Green
- Laura Bannister Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Green
- Lewis Coyne Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Green
- Jill Perry Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Green
- John Knight Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Green
- Jake Welsh Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Green
- Gina Dowding Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Green
- Chris Stephens, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Scotland, SNP
- Pippa Bartolotti, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wales, Green
- Andrew Wigley, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South West England, Lib Dem
- Marie Aretoulaki, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Pirate Party
- Theresa Griffin, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North West England, Labour
- Maggie Chapman, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Scotland, Green
- Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Yorkshire & Humber, Labour
- Vanessa Hudson, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for London, Animal Welfare Party
What is the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association?
We’re the ‘voice’ of the ornamental fish industry so our main job is to promote and protect the interests of that industry. We currently represent more than 700 members, from importers and wholesalers to suppliers and retailers. Our mission is to help businesses thrive within the industry by making sure there is a wide range of fish and related products to sell to customers. Part of our job is to identify threats and risks to the industry – like this wild caught ban campaign – and make sure the social, economic and health benefits that keeping fish bring to the UK is heard.
Our members sign up to a Code of Conduct and retailers must have a pet shop licence so if you’re looking for a reputable retailer or manufacturer why not ask if they support this industry as an OATA member?