Ethical Considerations for Keeping Octopus in Captivity

cthulhu77

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Well, snakeheads have been illegal here since the 80's (there is even a horrible movie called "snakehead terror" out there.) as a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of local release.

I disagree strongly that we should leave it up to others to decide how and well we keep animals in captivity. As stated, it should be up to the person individually...the problem isn't with the cephalopods, it's with the people keeping them.
 


Colin

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But surely as a good example of an animal keeper, your input to any legislation would only be a good thing?

How would you guide people? How would you compete between the factors of what is good for conservation and 'boy, that's cool and despite the fact I know it's maybe rare; I'm going to buy it anyway!'
 

Thales

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Colin;88796 said:
Hmmm I disagree here, as the consumer we have the ultimate say in whether we buy the animals or not. We can speak with our wallets.

Consumers can have the ultimate say, however, 'responsible aquarists' are no where near the bulk of the consumers in the pet trade. In the states at least, non responsible aquarists make up the vast majority of consumers, and they are unwilling to even pay 10% more for something tank raised over something wild caught.
 

Colin

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Yep, my point exactly, I dont think that there are enough responsible aquarirts or herpetologists out there...
 

Thales

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cthulhu77;88799 said:
I disagree strongly that we should leave it up to others to decide how and well we keep animals in captivity. As stated, it should be up to the person individually...the problem isn't with the cephalopods, it's with the people keeping them.

At the same time, it isn't really people in the know that are causing the problem for cephs, its people with passing fancies just like with the galaxy rasbora and the Hog Island Boa.
More importantly, its the people on the supply side who are trying to make a living with their local resources that are supplying the animals. I think the more effective choice is to educate/legislate them regarding sustainable practices.
 


Thales

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In the states we get stupid legislation all the time regarding animals, and then, it doesn't even have teeth. The legislators seem more interested in feel good laws instead of laws that make a difference.
All boas were made illegal in SF, ignoring the idea that something like a ball python makes a great pet.
It is illegal to own/sell baby leopard sharks in California, but it is just fine to fish for gravid mothers and slaughter the pups for bait.
The Vincent Law was passed to require all pet shops to give out care sheets with each animal sold, and to keep track of everyone who bought every animal. The care sheets were not supplied, and legislators didn't have any idea about how many different animals they were dealing with. Furthermore, two days after the law went into effect, everyone was essentially told not to bother, it wasn't going to be enforced.
 

Thales

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Colin,

Interesting about feeder fish. In the states its a booming business. Its funny/sad to hear people complaining about painted glass fish when they are holding a bag of 20 feeders.








Returning to the main topic, I think the issues need to be addressed on several levels at the same time. Local education, regional education, international education and the same levels on the industry side. I think the main problem we face is that the pet trade is a volume business, and that there is the attitude that anyone who wants and animal should be able to have it at a cheap price. Anyone have the time, effort and money to be part of an international collation of NPO's? I think with 20 million we could make a real dent in all these issues.

I think animals (and gasoline) should cost lots of money, and it makes me a little sick that collectors living in poverty get a dollar for an animal that sells for 100 bucks. I think the paradigm of the industry needs to change. I would love to see a departure from the warehouse model of pet shopping, and a move to a request system. If someone wants a particular animal, they put in a request directly to the collector, and it gets collected for them and shipped to them. No middle man, no collecting 50 so 40 can make it to the wholesaler so the LFS can stock 30 so they can sell 2. There was an outfit called Twilight Aquatics in Hawaii that collected fish on demand. They were great. Call them up and they go diving for what you ask for. Not only that, they insist on tanking it for a week or two to make sure its eating before they send it out. If its not, they put it back where they got it. Amazing business, and I used them often. Sadly, not enough others did and they closed their doors.

There. A wall of posts that will prolly get glossed over! :biggrin2:
 

cthulhu77

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The local fish store works somewhat like that...he only orders what is pre-ordered...unfortunately, a lot of the recent demands are for "those dang bright colored octopusses, ya know?", and I had to cease dealing with him over it.

All of you are correct in saying that this is a multi-multi-faceted problem, not one easy solution in sight. Still, it is nice to see the discussion continuing, and perhaps some fleshing out of practices for the future.
 

monty

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Great thread, folks.

Thales' point about it being a good idea to order directly customer->collector and cut out the middle-men seems like a very good thing. A lot of the "new internet economy" can use that model (as in that "The World is Flat" book) but a lot of established business fight tooth-and-nail to block that, because they make their money by being middle-men, and they want to defend their niches even though they've moved from a useful purpose to being vestigial parasites... so I think it's a great idea, but I think it's likely to encounter a lot of opposition from wholesalers and LFSes because they'd be cut out of the loop (I think wholesalers can evolve, and LFSes can still provide the valuable function of providing advice, supplies, and other things that still can use a local centralized clearing house, but a lot of businesses are so risk-averse that they look at all changes as a threat, and will fight for the status quo.)

Although, being a Libertarian at heart, I find Cthuhu77's notion that the individual should be responsible very appealing, I believe based on what I've observed that a lot of "exotic animals" hobbies attract people who aren't willing to learn enough to be responsible. Ideally, educating these people is the right solution, but it's not clear how best to do that, since there seems to be a continual stream of ignorant people, and many are too rushed, stubborn, or close-minded to be responsible. On the other hand, I think it's desirable to welcome new people to the community, and give them the benefit of the doubt, even if they have interest but no knowledge. Unlike, say, aviation, where there's a strong incentive to have requirements before someone is allowed to participate, there isn't anything, at least right now, that stops a novice from walking into an LFS an buying some random tank and a wonderpus. How can we give that novice an opportunity to understand the situation, and how should we address the fact that there are novices who refuse those opportunities even when they are available?

I get the impression that there is an attitude progression in being involved with exotic animals: there's sort of an initial enthusiasm, then an appreciation for the depth of the complexities and issues, and then finally, sometimes, a jaded frustration that so many participants in the field are so ignorant of the big picture. This is probably a gross oversimplification, but it seems to me that Cthulhu77 and Colin have gotten to that jaded stage, and Thales, Cuttlegirl, DHyslop, Nancy, and Carol are somewhere in the middle stage, where the enthusiasm offsets the jadedness.

Personally, I'm still pretty enthusiastic about keeping cephs, but I very much want to understand the issues and "do the right thing, and I think everyone I mentioned in the "middle ground" category is pretty much in that boat. And one of the things I like about TONMO is that we try very hard to shift people from "interested novice" to this middle ground. And while I certainly hold a great respect for Greg and Colin and Roy as having "earned their stripes," I think there's a danger of them coming across as curmudgeons since they're so frustrated with seeing so many cases of well-meaning stupidity that leads to mistreatment of animals that they're a bit inclined to associate naive enthusiasm with irresponsible, unethical bad practices. I have a great appreciation for curmudgeons, in fact, so I don't mean that as an insult, just as an observation that might help us steer things in the most positive direction possible: enthusiasm can be steered by a Gandalf-like figure to be responsible, and sometimes the enthusiastic newbies can become great advocates of the Forces of Good! I know it's terribly frustrating when people don't respect hard-earned wisdom in their enthusiasm, and there's a lot of "I refuse to admit that I don't know what I'm doing" that's just shameful, but there are also opportunities to correct this with teaching rather than condemnation, or so I'd like to think, at least. And it's perhaps helpful to remember that "back in the day" even the jaded folks were enthusiastic at the "boy, I've got a cephalopod! in my house! that's SO FRIGGING COOL!" stage (I would assume, anyway). That enthusiasm can be steered, but if it's squashed, it often leads to unfortunate responses (bitterness, resentfulness, close-mindedness, and whatnot).

:twocents: in another wall-o-text(tm)
 

monty

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glamorization and enthusiasm vs restraint and ethics

Another issue I wonder about that's connected to this discussion is the trade off between promotion of enthusiasm for cephs, including exotics, and the discouraging of things that will impact the animals badly, both in the wild and when they're kept in tanks.

I've always really, really enjoyed Thales' videos and pictures, and he's such a great showman that he really makes keeping exotics like Metasepia and Wonderpuses look fascinating and thrilling, and I would hate to discourage that (because, in fact, I really look forward to seeing his Wonderpus videos set to some cool soundtrack!) but I think that the notion that it glamorizes and, whether intentionally or not, promotes the keeping of these animals as pets is a very valid concern. I don't mean to pick on Thales in particular, just to flatter him for his cool multimedia and bring up the example, but I've been asking myself how I can make the wonderp.us site I'm starting to set up show off how cool these animals are, yet not encourage irresponsible keeping or collection, since I am pretty much convinced that it'd be better for everyone if they were no longer collected and sold in LFSes, and most people would be better off with other animals.

I'm opposed to censorship of information to forward an agenda, so I'd like to keep references to anything that anyone learns that could help anyone who has a wonderpus to give that animal the best life possible, but I think it should be very closely tied with our position that it's unethical to collect and import them, and that anyone considering buying one should be strongly discouraged from it, and should ideally get a tank-bred bimac or bandensis instead, or at least a humanely-collected, well-documented, non-threatened species.

I'm not sure how best to do this, and I also know that often people will just see the "flashy video" as a "wow, that's a cool octopus" but won't notice/read/remember that it's associated with a message that these animals are really not a good choice for hobbyists, for technical, conservation, and ethical reasons. I don't want to appear hypocritical or heavy-handed, but I also don't want to end up being "part of the problem" leading to the continued unsustainable, cruel, or irresponsible collection and sale of "zebras." And maybe if people can get their fix of these animals on the web or in public aquariums they'd be less likely to feel a need to try to keep them at home... or maybe not: I love watching sea dragons and GPOs and large cuttles in public aquariums, and I know better than to think about them as private pets, but I see the appeal... and even the big aquariums like Long Beach and Monterey don't have wonderpuses and metasepia where I could pay my admission and watch them for hours, like I've been know to occasionally do with octos and cuttles there :roll: But I also like having a domestic cat as a pet, and don't feel an urge to have an ocelot or a lynx, even though they might be more spectacular or something, so by the same logic I don't feel much urge to have a wonderpus rather than a bimac or bandensis, particularly if there are ethical or conservation concerns. But apparently there are a lot of people who don't react that way, and the cost of a wonderpus over a bimac is small enough that it's more in reach than comparing an ocelot to a kitten. (And I imagine it's harder to get an ocelot, although I haven't tried.)

I'm very curious what everyone thinks about this aspect of the ethics debate, since, at least to me, it's a somewhat separable topic, since even if there's some disagreement about the exact details of the problem or solution, we seem to all pretty much agree that we should encourage responsible behavior and do anything we can to make sure that the hobby trade doesn't devastate the wild population.

yet another :twocents: -- at this rate, I'll be broke soon...
 

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