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Man Eats Pet Goldfish Live: Is He Guilty of Animal Cruelty?

Man Eats Pet Goldfish Live: Is He Guilty of Animal Cruelty?
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A pet goldfish, 21 live locusts, a live tarantula, a live scorpion, a live giant slug: a 28-year-old London man, Louis Cole, has not only eaten all of these but posted videos of himself doing so on his YouTube channel, Food for Louis, and gotten so many viewers that he was able to make a living from it. To keep his audience (as it were) “satiated,” Cole has made videos of himself eating a litany of what, to most Westerners, are not food: a “mouse shake” of ten rodents put through a blender, a raw bull’s testicle and various sorts of road kill.

Cole’s stated purpose is to get us to think about how what is disgusting in one culture is food in another — about the diversity of food cultures out there. In an April interview, Cole told the Guardian‘s Oliver Thring that he is “not a cruel person,” that he would not eat a live mammal (“I’ve got to draw the line somewhere”) and that

“I don’t want to inflict any pain on these animals which is why I try to kill them instantly. On all my videos, every animal dies within five seconds… Obviously we need to treat animals ethically. But a much bigger problem is addressing human problems around the world like extreme poverty or the conditions that people are living in.”

While it is not 100 percent provable that all the animals Cole consumes actually die “within five seconds,” it is certainly the case that many animals suffer far longer, painful deaths at the hands of humans. Care2 blogger Piper Hoffman recently described the numerous steps (including being shackled by a foot, having their carotid arteries cut and being cast into boiling water) that chickens at a meat-processing plant go through, too often while they are still conscious. The Guardian‘s Thring also points out that, after all, “it seems objectively less cruel to kill a scorpion instantly” than to keep chickens in cages or pigs in tiny stalls or lobsters in supermarket tanks.

Cole’s videos are a “stark and shocking reminder that all of our food choices are based on culture and prejudice,” Thring writes.

Why In the World Is Louis Cole Eating Live Animals?

Before embarking on his YouTube “career,” Cole spent five years working for an organization seeking to keep young people from joining gangs. He is certainly no saint, telling Thring that he first starting his eating “antics” on dares from friends (he first ate a spider). Cole says he started the YouTube channel because “I wanted to see if I could get a million hits” (he has far more than that now) and admits he “enjoy[s] riling people up a bit and challenging them to the reality that to eat meat, they have to kill an animal.”

While noting that vegetarians do have “more of a valid point,” Cole also recalls that, after a long exchange with a woman who did not eat meat, she simply told him he “should just have gone to McDonald’s.” But as Cole implies, eating a Golden Arches chicken sandwich makes you complicit in the very killing and suffering of animals that he seeks to highlight.

RPSCA Charges Cole With Animal Cruelty

Cole’s videos certainly raise at least a few ethical, and disturbing, questions about the food we eat or choose not too. He says he does not mean to be cruel towards animals, but is he?

The U.K.’s Royal Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) indeed thought so. At the end of April, the organization sent Cole a letter alleging that, for the goldfish-eating video, he was in danger of having broken animal cruelty laws — the U.K.’s cover fish and animals with a backbone but not inverte insects and other brates — and could be arrested by the police if he did not respond. Faced with a £20,000 fine and up to six months in prison, Cole hired a lawyer. He ended up settling with the RPSCA and, as he tells Thring in the Guardian in December, admitting his “guilt” and receiving a caution.

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239 comments

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8:53PM PDT on Mar 22, 2015

Marc, double dares, when the spring smelting season is going on, likely now on the St. Lawrence River, Great Lakes System, with bonfires, smelt & potato fries and booze are mixed, well there are the odd smelt head bitten off or swallowed live.

Barbarian's, NOT. NOR criminals.

Do any of the suppressive's here own a Fly Swatter, mouse trap, use ant OR termite poison?

Bored busy bodies and the large percentage that are angry scares me.

6:09PM PDT on Mar 22, 2015

OK. I confess.... I one, as a 13 year old kid back in 1975, actually ate a live goldfish on a dare. (And an offer of $0.50 cents!) It was a helpless fish. It was in a plastic bag full of water that I also drank. I won the poor victim at a fair by tossing a dime into a fishbowl. After I swallowed it I felt it swimming for a few minutes in my stomach. (Gross!) So yes, I too am guilty of pisciscide. Somehow I got over my guilt and now concern myself with REAL world problems we are having right now.

12:18AM PDT on Mar 22, 2015

Muddied waters. Oh righteous ones, are fish sentient beings? How many people here have fish tanks? Do you ever notice your fish tank population may diminish at times? Did they go to fish heaven?

Do big fish eat little fish ALIVE? Are you floundering in the River of DeNile now?

Do you eat Tofu fish cakes? How many bugs, slugs, lizards, worms, gophers, rabbits, voles, moles are killed by plough, pesticide, herbicide, desiccant, harvesting Soy beans to make your imitation, wanna be fish cakes? Your complicit in maiming, torture, murdering and poisoning wildlife with toxic substances, all for you gluttonous appetites!

Are we having a hypocrisy problem now? A little bit of unjustified judging now. So what if the guy wanted celebrity status? How many here crave celebrity status here with their hundreds of friends on farce book accounts, am I forgetting any others?

Please keep donating to the RSPCA. Could you imagine wasting the police and courts time over swallowing a gold fish?

5:11PM PDT on Mar 21, 2015

Doug D.
"No worse than what fisherman do anywhere.... Got a problem with it? Don't eat meat."

How does that solve anything? The cruelty will still go on whether people eat meat or not.

BTW eating does NOT justify cruel/inhumane acts towards any living being.

1:25AM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

So glad he got in trouble. I just found his channel early this morning, and was outraged. I reported his videos too. I found this site seeing if he got in trouble!

9:12AM PDT on May 28, 2013

disgusting!

5:35PM PDT on Apr 10, 2013

I think that this character who is doing this,is only caring on with it because of the popularity that he gets from his videos,and I read that he was making a living of of this that is not wright by itself,and if not for that he most likely would not be doing it,to all the people watching this you need to get a life worth living,be for you die of boredom.

8:54AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

I assume that all of you that have made negative comments eat NO meat. If you do eat any meat, you are hypocrites. If you do eat no meat, good for you. But, don't force your moral judgement onto someone that doesn't share your belief. Explain your position. If it is accepted, great. If not, don't get hostile about it.

12:41PM PST on Feb 25, 2013

SICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

10:01AM PST on Feb 7, 2013

thanks for sharing.

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