The Flaming Vegan

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Fish Spas - Vegan or Not?
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Fish Spas - Vegan or Not?

The latest novelty attraction under the guise of a healthy and ethical practice is fish spas. Despite concerns that the fish may carry or spread disease and even transmit HIV; spas are appearing on high streets right across the country. But should fish spas really be a chiropody treatment option for vegans?

What are fish spas?

The fish concerned are Garra rufa fish and they are used by the spas to nibble away dead skin and flesh. The fish are also known as ‘doctor fish’ or ‘nibble fish’. The fish originate in the river basins of the Middle Eastern countries; Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. They are taken from their natural habitat and shipped out across the world to foot spas in ever increasing numbers and demand for the treatment grows. Unfortunately, the Garra rufa don’t travel well and die in huge numbers before even reaching their destinations. It’s estimated that at least 50% die in transit due to overcrowding, shock and the stress of travelling for lengthy periods of time in unsuitable conditions.

Of course, fish breeders have latched on to this new and potentially profitable niche market and large quantities are now captive bred specifically to meet the demand from fish spas. Unfortunately, not all breeders keep their stocks in correct and sanitary conditions and many fish actually die before they are even sold on to the spas. It has also been alleged that many fish die because they are denied their natural food to make sure they’ll consume as much human skin as possible when they reach the spas.

So it would appear that the poor fish pay a very high price so that ignorant people can enjoy a novelty pedicure. So, do fish actually feel pain? Fish spa addicts and no doubt those making a fortune from them would have you believe that the fish are quite happy in their enforced occupation. After all, fish aren’t that bright are they? Keeping fish in unnatural and largely unsuitable conditions which are light years away from their natural river habitat cannot be right, ethically or otherwise. Surely this is just exploitation at its worst? After all, treating living creatures as an expendable commodity whose brief and uncomfortable lives are only lived to ultimately make greedy human beings money is totally unacceptable whether you’re vegan or not.

There are plenty of other podiatry options available to us which do not involve the use of living creatures or products which have been tested upon them. As a passionate vegan, I for one will be voicing my displeasure at the use of fish spas and will certainly not be encouraging my friends and family to visit one.


 *Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.


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  1. Vanessa
    This is a new topic that I haven’t thought about as a vegan. Thanks for bringing it up. I knew about this message, but didn’t think carefully enough about how they are treated and used. It is shocking, and I now realize that it is not for their feeding, just for humans.


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