If it's Christmas, it's time for carp
Animal rights activist condemns "cruel killing" of fish for Christmas
Posted: December 23, 2009
"An early sign of the festive season are carp sellers plying their
traditional trade, but some accuse them of lacking the "necessary
experience" and inflicting needless suffering on the main ingredient of the
Czech Christmas dinner.
"People who kill carp on the streets do not have the necessary experience,
and they frequently act in such way that they violate the law on the
protection of animals," said Tomás Popp, chairman of the Prague-based Animal
"A major problem is the speed in which they are forced to work, which
enhances the suffering of the carp," he said. "In addition, there is no need
to have an animal on the Christmas table. There are alternatives that are in
line with the celebration of Christ's arrival."
Popp disputes the idea that killing carp is a Czech tradition with a long
"Killing carp on this scale does not have a long tradition in the Czech
lands," he said. "It is a 20th century matter."
Carps sellers had set up stalls on Národní street more than a week before
Christmas and reported a brisk trade in the fish that were farmed in Trebon,
south Bohemia, an area famous for its more than 7,600 fishponds, which cover
an area of more than 30,000 hectares.
The sellers started Dec. 16, and they will continue to sell until the
evening of Dec. 24. Their busiest day is the shortest day of the year, Dec
If fish could talk, what Popp describes as "slaughter on the streets" would
not take place.
"Carp are stressed, exhausted, and they suffer, especially during the
selling process. It is necessary to realize the fish can definitely feel
pain to the same extent as mammals," he said. "Unfortunately, they cannot
scream. Otherwise, there would be no massive killing on the streets."
However, for those who do eat carp, Popp recommends the more humane method
of killing the fish straight away rather than putting them in baths.
The Czech Republic produces 20,000 tons of fish per year, making it one of
the largest freshwater fish producers in the European Union. But the average
Czech eats only 1.5 kilograms of freshwater fish per year, one of the lowest
fish-consumption rates in the EU.
Raising carp has a long history in the Czech lands. The first written
accounts of fishpond construction date back to the 11th century, when
monasteries maintained carp fishponds, an important food for Lent. But the
greatest upsurge of fishpond cultivation came in the 15th and 16th
centuries, when most of the ponds in south Bohemia came into existence.
Carp account for 88 percent of the domestic fish-farming industry's profits,
and two-thirds of yearly production centers on Christmas.
A common tradition associated with the fish states that anyone putting a
scale under their dinner plate will not endure financial problems the next
year. Another tradition says putting a fish scale in a wallet guarantees
Sometimes, however, carp are given reprieves and are returned to ponds by
children on Christmas Eve...."