Another Czech supermarket bans live carp sales this Christmas

Billa is the second major store to ban the sales of live carp outside its stores, highlighting its attempts to show more care for animal welfare.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 06.12.2023 12:32:00 (updated on 06.12.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

In response to the public debate surrounding the pre-Christmas sale of live carp and their public slaughter in Czechia, leading supermarket chain Billa has announced it will not sell the live fish outside its stores this winter. The store joins Lidl in its decision to halt sales, as animal rights activists call for the end of the practice nationwide.

Billa stops, but others continue

Spokesperson for Billa Věra Lantová tells news site Hospodářské noviny that the decision to stop the sale of live carp is in line with the company’s broader strategy of prioritizing environmental responsibility and animal welfare.

Lidl banned live carp sales last year, citing ethical and sustainability grounds. However, other prominent retailers such as Kaufland and Albert are maintaining their stance to continue selling carp. Albert argues that it does not own the spaces in front of the stores, and thus cannot influence the selling of the fish.

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While Tesco said last year that it would contemplate a potential change in the future, the retailer still intends to permit the sale of carp in tubs by external vendors in front of selected stores, according to Hospodářské noviny.

A call to end live carp sales

The controversy surrounding the treatment of live carp during holiday sales is a long-standing point of contention. Critics highlight the stress and indiscriminate killing these fish endure, calling for a nationwide ban on live carp sales. 

The Christmas Without Violence campaign that calls for an end to carp sales draws attention to the sizable pain and distress that carp go through before being slaughtered. “People cause fear, pain, disease, suffocation, hunger, and death to millions of living beings every year,” it notes.

Christmas Without Violence also notes that many carp that are sold on the street are diseased, leading not only to great discomfort but also to a slow and painful death. The organization notes that improper fishing and handling of carp – done by many vendors – also adds to their distress.

But is discomfort exaggerated?

However, some experts present differing viewpoints. Biologist Martin Čech says that the carp’s stress levels are exaggerated, adding that the fish experience constant stress “anyway,” due to the presence of predators in lakes and ponds. “Carp don’t mind being squeezed in a tub with other fish. It's pretty much natural to them," he adds.

Čech also asserts that witnessing live fish presents an educational opportunity for younger generations, aiding in understanding the link between consuming meat and animal slaughter.

Hydrobiologist Milan Říha of the Biological Center of the Czech Republic's Academy of Sciences holds a similar view, suggesting that if carp are euthanized swiftly and correctly – through efficient handling, rapid stunning, and bleeding – their suffering compares to that of other farm animals during slaughter. He also notes that society is uncomfortable with witnessing animal death outside the confines of meat plants and farms only because it is rare to see.

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