Local breeders and raisers during a competition show of Betta Fish. ( PN photo )
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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights nonprofit organization, advised local betta breeders in Palawan to shift to industries that do not exploit fish, but the local raisers group emphasized that their approach is not regarded as animal cruelty.

Jason Baker, Senior Vice President, PETA Asia said in a letter to Palawan News that delicate animals, such as betta fish, suffer when used for human entertainment or home decor purposes. It is following the published story of local raisers and hobbyists encouraging quality breeds’ production among locals, particularly youth.

The quality breeds participated in competitions in which fish were judged, adhering to the criteria established by the International Betta Congress.

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Participating Betta fish watched over by their breeders before the show.(PN photo)

This freshwater species native to Asia is commonly referred to as the fighting fish, and its colors are vibrant. In addition to plant roots, bettas primarily consume insects and larvae and must be kept in a minimum two-gallon tank with temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Betta fish have no interest in winning breeders’ beauty pageants. They simply want to live their lives free from suffering. PETA Asia encourages everyone to always adopt their animal companions instead of supporting breeding operations and pet stores that exploit animals for profit,” Baker said.

“We hope that the raisers will work together to increase animal welfare standards in the industry, however, they should be aware that as more and more people become concerned with animal rights and the treatment of animals, the betta fish industry will struggle to survive. We hope raisers look towards switching to kinder industries that don’t exploit fish,” PETA also noted.

The PETA further explained that the nature of male betta fish is to build bubble nests for their young and protect them from predators. However, it further stressed that breeders, pet stores, and buyers commonly confine animals in tiny cups or flower vases in which they can only swim.

PN photo

David Garganza, the founder of Palawan Betta Malakas, one of the hobbyist groups existing in Palawan, stressed that local raisers are not exploiting betta fish in competitions and shows conducted. Instead, it is a way to promote appreciation of God’s creation.

Garganza developed his interest in betta fish back in 2018. There are five teams in Palawan with a combined total population of around 800 to 1,000 members.

“We are not killing them for food or just keeping them for fun. We are keeping them like dogs and cats and other pets as part of our life. Life can be happier with help of Betta fish keeping. So why we are going to exploit them. We are one of many pet hobbyists and enthusiasts that protect and conserve life,” he said.

PN photo

Maintaining Betta Fish

PETA believed that aside from water temperature concerns that betta fish might face in transferring to containers, the absence of proper filtration may turn water into toxic due to waste material.

On contrary, Garganza pointed out that they could not reproduce fish if they are not providing an appropriate for Betta fish raised. The constant changing of water is part of the raisers’ maintenance in fish keeping, along with providing food like Daphnia, mosquito larvae, tubifex worm, grindal worms and commercial pellets.

“Siguro naman kung may mali kami sa pagbigay ng habitat ng Betta fish, hindi namin naparami ang Betta fish at hindi na namin na-breed at napapalaki,” he said in defense to claims of denied species-appropriate food provision.

Betta fish transportation

The animal rights organization also raised its concern with breeding farms selling fish to pet stores as those typically ship them in plastic bags in “barely enough water to cover their own bodies.”

“The fish are denied food and oxygen, and are subjected to a grueling, days-long transport. Many don’t survive the journey,” Baker said.

The imports of local raisers are coming from countries of Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Imported fish have a maximum shipping span of two weeks to Palawan, while one week if the point of destination is in Manila.

Despite the absence of food, Garganza mentioned that Betta fish can endure hunger depending on the size and would not lead to starvation or death. A junior size can survive hunger for one to two weeks, while three weeks for regular size.

“Wala pong kain-kain ‘yon, kaya dapat condition ang isda bago i-byahe. Maximum sa abroad (ng) two weeks mare-receive na– Basta maganda pag-handle ng cargo, 100% survival. Naka-styro ‘yan kaya safe na safe ‘yan– Hindi nalagay sa mainit na area at hindi napapatungan,” he said.

“Matibay sa gutom mga betta fish, pero syempre sa shipping lang nangyayari ‘yon. Minsan lang sa buhay nila mangyari ‘yong ganon. Life span nila base sa experience, two to three years. Pero mga one to two 2 years, nakikita mo na tumatanda na sila,” he added.

The fish with the age of 1.5 to two months is classified as junior size with a 1.25-inch body size, while those with ages of 2.5 months and above are classified as regular sizes with 1.5-inch and above.

PETA has already conducted an investigation and petition against the global Betta fish trade, stressing trade is causing suffering on a massive scale.

Meanwhile, to raisers like Garganza, the process of trade is not a form of animal cruelty and they are backed with a permit from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The cargo declared as live fish is prioritized and well-packed.

“Hindi ko nakikitang cruelty ‘yan. Kasi well-conditioned naman ang fish bago namin i-ship. Kung ilalagay namin ang sarili namin sa kalagayan ng isda, capacity nila ‘yong ganon katagal sa shipping. Alaga namin ‘yon, mahal namin ‘yon. Dumating naman sila ng buhay, wala naman siguro problem doon,” he said.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.