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

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.

While acknowledging that Cole’s videos are certainly provocative, Thring argues that the RPSCA (the U.K.’s eighth-richest charity) “got Louis Cole wrong” in taking such legal action against him. From watching Cole’s videos and speaking to him a number of times, Thring says that he has “never seen any evidence that he wished to inflict cruelty on any animal”; he points out that “if you accept that it’s moral to eat another creature, then killing it is a necessary part of that process.” If Cole is accused of animal cruelty, should not anyone who eats animals?

What Do You Think About Cole’s “Antics”?

I do think Cole, whatever his original intentions with his Food for Louis videos, is raising some issues of pressing ethical importance. I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life and one reason I spurned eating meat was after learning about how livestock and other animals are treated and killed. But while Cole may not intend to inflict cruelty on the tarantulas, leeches and other animals he eats live, who can say they do not experience extreme terror to find themselves being broken, torn apart and who knows what else by his teeth? How dead were they when they went down his esophagus?

Cole’s “antics” in his videos are certainly sensationalistic. If he had just gone about eating spiders and such to answer his friends’ dares but not made all this public (and to the vast audience one can find online), it is arguable that he would never have been served with legal charges by the RPSCA. Surely Cole must have known — as, it can be said, did the artist Andres Serrano with his “Piss Christ” piece (in which a crucifix was placed in a vessel of his own urine) — that his videos are provocative?

Fame and infamy go hand in hand, one can say.

Is Cole guilty of animal cruelty simply by committing the acts he has in his videos? Was he “asking for it” by posting them? Now that he has made his point about the ethical issues of killing and eating animals, should he stop publicizing his “antics” and just stop them, period?

Related Care2 Coverage

More Chickens May Be Boiled Alive Under USDA’s New Proposed Rule

Backyard Butchers Turn One Corner of Florida Into Hell for Animals

Yes, Germany Must Ban Bestiality

Photo from Thinkstock

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Gerald L.
Gerald L.8 months ago

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.

Marc P.
Marc P.8 months ago

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.

Gerald L.
Gerald L.8 months ago

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?

Brandon Morales
Brandon Morales2 years ago

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!

Dipanwita Ridi
dipanwita Ridi2 years ago


Mike Kowalchuk
Mike Kowalchuk2 years ago

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.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak2 years ago

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.

Estelle S.
Estelle S.2 years ago


rene davis
rene davis2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Alicia Guevara
Alicia Guevara2 years ago

A agree with Rob L's. "What a colossal asshole".!