I know this is a tricky issue and there are a variety of different opinions on this forum. I'd like to hear what you think, so this is a place to calmly and respectfully put forward your view. I don't mind healthy debate, but please, no one be rude or disrespectful or I'll ask the mods to shut it down.
So let me know what you think of rescuing!
My personal opinion is that you are just feeding the corporate machine by voting with your dollar/pound/rupee/whatever, and that the fish you rescue will only show up in their sales tag as a profit. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean I'm immune to the pitiful call of a fish in awful conditions, and bought my first sorority girls from a shop that wasn't treating its fish amazingly well. (I'll never buy from them again, but that's a different story). In the end, I did make a huge difference to the lives of those six girls, so I can't really regret it.
Over the years, my view has eventually solidified into this: I will rescue, but only in two conditions:
- the fish is given to me for free or for a discounted price
- I'm buying from someone privately rather than a shop.
Luckily, the local shops are all pretty good, so I am not often faced with this dilemma. I know that a lot of you guys in the US, however, are faced with fish rotting away in those wierd tiny cups on a regular basis, so you are probably more qualified to hold an opinion on this than me. :)
My opinion on rescuing has been all over the place, from one end of the spectrum to the other, but I think I finally came to a good conclusion. If you see a fish in need of rescuing and can't get it for free/a reduced price (such as at many Petco/Petsmart stores, where it's against policy), get the fish anyway but don't buy anything else. Go to a different store to get your supplies, and let the store where you got your fish know that you are upset about the condition their Bettas are kept in by letter/email/phone call (if saying something at the time of purchase would result in being unable to take the fish, which is why I always played it safe and wrote a letter). For example, I no longer shop at any Petco stores, and instead buy from either a local shop or Petsmart (in my area they don't usually have poorly kept Bettas). Normally my feelings on this issue would be to absolutely NOT spend any money at these stores under any circumstances, but because most people don't see Bettas the way we do, the likelihood that they will no longer be sold in this way is slim to none. So, I say that if you can make a difference for even one fish, you have done a good thing.
I suppose to sum up my rather long rambling on the subject, my opinion is a combination of two of the poll options: "I don't agree with rescuing in theory, but I can't resist" and "I rescue, because it makes a difference to that fish". (I'm not including the "I rescue, but I always make my displeasure known" because I lumped all my complaints about multiple fish into one letter, so I didn't technically do it every single time I took home a fish, and I never made a complaint to a local store I got one of my first rescues from, though I've never gone there again.) So to squish it all together into one simple statement:
"I don't agree with rescuing in theory, but I can't resist because it makes a difference to that fish."
I don't mind paying full price for the rescued fish; I wouldn't want his/her life to hang in the balance for want of a few shekels. I understand the whole corporate machine angle and to some extent I agree with that characterization. But I am not sure that not-buying or holding out for a lower price really puts any significant pressure on the corporations who promulgate such abuse. By the time you see the dying betta, s/he has already been written off as a loss by the machine in another of its many iterations. There is no more for them to lose on him/her. And the pittance you pay for the dying betta--much may it profit the corporation--is more than counterposed by the good you do, in terms of responding to an organism in dire need.
The poll is really hard to do because the first two answers are about your personal definition of rescuing while the others are about why people rescue. In addition to that, some of the options do are not exclusive and can fit into the definition of rescuing you have provided.
A rescue is saving an animal from a dangerous situation. However, a true rescue does not contribute to the prolongation and support of that dangerous situation. It is not considered rescuing a dog by purchasing it from a puppy mill supplied store, after all. It is considered purchasing and supporting the industry, regardless of your personal feelings. Same goes for fish. However, that is not to belittle the intent behind purchase or the care that goes into helping the living creature. If there is no way to get the fish at a discount or for free, then a strong impression should be made with an attempt to change the situation. That is, do not just tell the cashier that the conditions are unacceptable. Talk to a manager, write to corporate, and try for real change.
Otherwise, I believe that purchasing a fish and not pushing for change and/or paying full price for it will contribute to the cycle of abuse and is more accurately defined as a sympathy purchase-- and there is NOTHING wrong with that, so long as you acknowledge and are comfortable with this. Caring for a fish is caring for a fish, no matter how you got it. Living creatures need respect but to truly make an impact and change, it is important to work for one.
A sympathy purchase is a token of kindness. The major difference between a sympathy purchase and a rescue is this: a sympathy purchase is a short-term, low-impact, solution and a rescue is a long-term, high-impact, solution. While a rescue may not make major change, it speaks for all fish rather than just one.
My opinions on rescuing have changed more then once over the years. And I understand everyone's views on the topic. The truth of the matter is that if that fish in need is purchased, adopted for free, or dies on the shelf it is still going to be replaced by a new fish. Unfortunately for each one of us that takes the time talk to the manager, for each one of us that demand to get that sick fish free, there are hundreds or thousands of people who don't.
Don't get me wrong, I will fight for these fish until the day I die, I will do my best to educate anyone that will listen, and any fish that i can get for free I will. But I will not pass up a betta in need because the store won't give it away. And if I pay for a sick fish I will still consider it a rescue, because I am rescuing THAT fish, I am making a difference to THAT fish.
I'm going to post a story that I'm sure everyone has read, but its wonderful and can always be shared again!
The Star Fish Story
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, so he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out, "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
As if he hadn't heard, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he turned, smiled and said, "It made a difference to that one!"