There is No Such Thing as Magic Fish

The celebration of the Chinese New Year was heralded by six goldfish, ( a symbol of wealth in China) "magically" swimming in perfect synchronization under the direction of magician Fu Yandong. Requests by animal activists in China to see how the "trick" is done were denied in keeping with the magicians' code of secrecy. The questions are raised because there is concern that the fish were hurt, altered, electrocuted, or somehow out fitted with magnets in order to swim so perfectly upon command.

China Magic Fish         Associated Press

 Historically, the world of circus oddities, magical disappearances, and other such unexplained occurrences has collided with animal cruelty laws and those advocating for morality in our treatment of sentient beings. Ringling Brothers showcased a unicorn which was really a goat with a horn surgically implanted in her forehead. I once intervened in a magic production where a bunny was made to "disappear" from his cage. In reality, the bunny was slammed into a false bottom and killed every time the trick was performed. Illusionists create the "magic" with sleight of hand which can involve actual harm. People who volunteer to disappear and pop up elsewhere or who agree to fold themselves into tiny dark spaces assume the risks and train for the tricks. The animals just get hurt.

 In locations where animal cruelty laws exist, these manifestations can be investigated and stopped or modified to prevent future harm. In the bunny situation - a larger false bottom was constructed to accommodate the changing sizes of the animal, which allowed the trick and saved the life. (It also was more economical as they could use the same bunny more than once!) There is no such legal protection in China - only public pressure. Absent such laws, questions of how far society goes in using animals for entertainment should be asked.

 Finally, there is the genuine concern that people will try these things at home and cause harm to more animals and themselves.

 The magicians' response: the goldfish are "living happily".  The Chinese animal rights groups aren't buying it and are insisting that the state broadcaster not air it anymore. I am not buying it either!

 Article first published by me as Animal Cruelty in the Name of "Magic" on Technorati.

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