Our #handsoffmyhobby campaign

We first launched our #handsoffmyhobby campaign in March 2014 in response to the Brussels-based Eurogroup for Animals which was urging MEPs, in the run-up to the European elections, to sign up to a #votes4animals pledge to show their support on ‘animal welfare’. This pledge was part of a broader manifesto that MEPs were saying they would campaign for. Buried within this manifesto, was a call to ban the import of wild-caught animals and restrict the number of exotic species that can be imported and traded in the EU, in line with EU policies which tackle related concerns including human health, animal health and the protection of the environment.”

While a ban on wild-caught animals was concerning enough – particularly if you are into marines – it was also the call to limit ‘exotic species’ that sounded like the death knell to the fishkeeping hobby. Why? Because the definition of an exotic species is a plant or animal species introduced into an area where they do not occur naturally – a non-native species’. Our fear is that this catch-all statement would basically cover tropical marine or freshwater fish, corals, soft corals or other invertebrates because all these are either wild-caught and/or exotic (which means they’re not native to Europe, even if captive-bred in the EU). Effectively that could wipe out the hobby across Europe.

So we asked hobbyists and businesses to lobby their MEP in the run-up to the Euro elections to let them know about the implications of signing this pledge.

Later that year Eurogroup for Animals organised a conference in the European Parliament in October 2014 called Putting Animal Welfare at the heart of the EU. As a small trade association we can’t afford to put on such lavish conferences in Brussels but we still wanted our voice heard on the issue. So we wrote to all UK MEPs in advance of the conference and sent them plenty of useful information on why pet ownership is beneficial to the UK and EU – pointing out that pets come in all shapes, sizes and species. We also produced a leaflet explaining why wild caught and exotic fish can be good news for everyone.

We relaunched the campaign in January 2015 in the run-up to the General Election in the UK, mobilising the trade and hobbyists to let politicians know that keeping exotic and wild-caught species as pets includes ornamental fish – and the people who keep them are not ‘bad’ people.