Carp describes various species of an oily freshwater fish native to Europe and Asia which is consumed in many parts of the world. In Poland this species of fish faces a very difficult and abusive time at Christmas. Historically carp is a Jewish delicacy but the fish became a Polish Christmas festive food because of a campaign by the communist authorities in 1947 which proclaimed “carp on every Christmas Eve table”.
They like to eat their fish fresh in Poland which means that fishmongers sell them live from where they end up in bath tubs in resident’s homes. They are kept in their bathtubs for days before being stunned and beheaded near to Christmas Eve. Perhaps as a consequence, Poland is the largest carp producer in the European Union. Annually the Polish people buy about 8.5 million carp for their Christmas Eve suppers
An animal rights activist, Renata Markowska, brought a lawsuit against three fishmongers in 2010 who she’d decided were being cruel towards carp as she saw them gasping for breath on their counters and tossed around like inanimate objects, or in her words “like potatoes”.
Her lawsuit was dismissed twice but then revived by the country’s Supreme Court in 2016. The court decided, in a landmark case, that the fishmongers were guilty of cruelty for keeping their fish in unacceptable conditions. The case had lasted ten years.
The fishmongers were given suspended jail sentences and will pay a fine up to £200 each to animal rights charities. This is a welcome improvement to animal rights in Poland. It may change the habits of the Polish people, forcing them away from buying live fish.
Comment: it is good to see this but there’s still a long way to go. The entire concept of fishing is, to a dedicated animal advocate, cruel. We know that fish is a good human food but fishing is inherently cruel and fish are not perceived as sentient beings by people. They are treated incredibly cruelly and it’s time for humans to take up a different attitude towards them.