Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The nanny state and the goldfish

First they set their sights on Happy Meals. Next up was circumcision. Now the city of San Francisco has decided that goldfish are a blight upon humanity. The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission has proposed that city supervisors ban the sale of goldfish in the city because aquarium fish are "mass bred" under "inhumane" conditions.


"Most fish in aquariums are either mass bred" under inhumane conditions "or taken from the wild," commission member Philip Gerrie said. That leads to "devastation of tropical fish from places like Southeast Asia," he said.

Millions of children learn to care for animals by raising goldfish. When I was a strapping young lad each of us in our family had a goldfish. We had to feed the fish and keep the water clean. Of course they all eventually died -- though none more spectacularly than my youngest brother's fish who got sick and was eaten by his bowl mate.

Fish are the ultimate urban pet. You don't have to walk them. You don't have to clean up after them. They don't soil the carpet. They don't get fur all over the furniture. They're pretty to look at - especially salt water fish - and you can customize your tank to your heart's content.

The fish don't have to search for food. They don't have to worry about predators. They just have to swim around all day and provide a pleasant backdrop for whatever else is going on inside the house.

The City by the Bay has rapidly become a symbol of the "nanny state" on steroids. People have to, at some level, be left to their own devices to function. The citizenry has a right to be left alone by the ever expanding reach of the state. Not every perceived wrong can be "fixed" by government fiat.

Like every other major city in the United States, San Francisco is confronted with unemployment, crime, pollution, traffic congestion, poverty, drug and alcohol addiction and a host of other problems. But instead of looking at ways to alleviate human suffering, the do-gooders in San Francisco are taking up the cause of goldfish.

I guess it's much easier to deal with pseudo-issues like rousting fish from the sea than it is with the very real problems that confront our society on a daily basis.

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