Ethics of octopi in captivity?

Discussion in 'Ceph Care Ethics' started by SolidNaza, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. SolidNaza

    SolidNaza Pygmy Octopus Registered

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    Hello everyone, this is my very first post on the forum D:

    I have absolutely no experience with aquariums but I am starting to read articles to prepare for the eventual ownership of an octopus or a cuttlefish :)

    The thing is.... It is well known octopus are intelligent therefore isn't it unethical to keep them in captivity? aren't they always trying to escape their tanks? wouldn't it be like keeping a human in a home but they can never go out?

    I REALLY want to own an octopus but these questions keep bothering me, what do you guys think?

    Thanks for your input!
     
  2. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Wow - this is a great poll. Great first post!

    :welcome:

    As many folks on TONMO know, I have no experience with aquariums myself. I'm just a cephalopod fan :smile:.

    I have been on both sides of this discussion, as have several members of staff (past and present). It's a tough issue, and in fact will be a topic of discussion at TONMOCON IV; neurobadger will moderate the Ethics Roundtable panel. Hope you can make it!

    That's such a tough question and unless you can rationalize it, it is the most compelling reason to be against it, IMO.

    I would like a "not sure" option...

    Tony
     
  3. CaptFish

    CaptFish Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    Welcome! great thread!

    What are you considering intelligent? Parrots, dogs, cats, primates and pretty much every other farm animal are far more intelligent than an octopus, and all of those are kept in captivity. On the grand scale of things octos really aren't that smart. only when compared to the other animals they are related to do they seem intelligent. compared to their cousin the clam they are geniuses! were as compared to a dolphin they are not so smart.


    Its not that they are trying to escape but rather that they are curious animals that like to explore and hunt. however with a few simple precautions it is pretty easy to keep them in your tank.
     
  4. Thales

    Thales Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    :welcome:

    I think its more complicated than a yes/no answer.

    What does 'ethical' mean to you?

    I don't know if it is well known that octopus are intelligent, it seems they may be intelligent, of course depending on how you define intelligent. It seems to me that pigs and dogs are more intelligent than octopus yet people have no problem farming pigs problem and eating them or keeping dogs cooped up in apartments all day. Birds may arguably be more 'intelligent' than octopus, but people have no problem keeping them in cages and they try to escape too.

    I like the idea of talking about ethics and it seems important to make sure we aren't selectively applying ethics to only 'pretty' animals.

    :smile:
     
  5. neurobadger

    neurobadger Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    Hi! Ethics roundtable moderator here.

    What we'll be talking about at TONMOCON is the captivity of cephalopods in three spheres: research, public aquaria, and private homes (through the composition of the panel, which comprises a member from academia - gjbarord - a member from public aquaria - Thales - and a member from private cephkeeping - corw314), and also important issues such as current laws regarding cephalopods kept in public spaces such as research and aquaria and issues surrounding animal welfare provision for them, their capacity for pain and suffering, and continuing the discussion about how ethical it is to keep them in the first place and what might be 'ethical keeping' and what might not be 'ethical keeping'.
     
  6. neurobadger

    neurobadger Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    That doesn't mean that these animals are being kept ethically; it just means that they're being kept.

    Pigs can be farmed while being treated well.
     
  7. Thales

    Thales Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    Absolutely. It also doesn't mean that they are being kept unethically.

    That depends on how you define treated well. There are people that would argue that raising an animal just to kill it is 'unethical'.
     
  8. Thales

    Thales Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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  9. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Cool, I like my response from 4+ years ago! :grin:
     
  10. SolidNaza

    SolidNaza Pygmy Octopus Registered

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    Wow that is a really good way to see it, helps me rationalize a lot better.
     
  11. SolidNaza

    SolidNaza Pygmy Octopus Registered

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    I'm from Montreal! I'm almost sure I'll go to the convention to learn more about it! :)
     
  12. SolidNaza

    SolidNaza Pygmy Octopus Registered

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    I think I was humanizing octopus too much, is not like they can literally "think": oh I'm living in captivity!
    That requires a brain like ours.

    So, after reading several threads I think "ethical" means making an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible (including live food), I also read many posts commenting about giving toys to them so they don't get bored which I found that it was a fabulous idea :)
     
  13. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    No matter what so-called "intelligence" level an animal has, I think it is unethical to keep any animal in poor conditions from cockroach to octopus. Going to be a great panel at TONMOCON!!

    Greg
     
  14. CaptFish

    CaptFish Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    :thumbsup: I like it. Sounds good, the only thing I would add is: not keeping species with questionable and or limited population, we don't want to collect any species into extinction, and make sure to keep the species in a tank that is the proper size.
     
  15. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    I like the answers and don't have much to add except that you must expect a yes answer in a yes/no poll from anyone keeping an cephalop. Pretty much by definition, people don't do things they truly believe to be unethical and most active members are cephalopod keepers. Additionally, most keepers are here to find the best ways to successfully keep the animals in their care.
     
  16. Tintenfisch

    Tintenfisch Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    A couple other aspects of 'ethical' might be:

    - 'Is it an ethical use of electricity to maintain an artificial marine habitat at home?' ... I actually ask myself this one on a regular basis, looking at my tropical freshwater tank with filter, air pump, heater and light, three of which run constantly. It makes me increasingly uncomfortable, especially with discussions of improving energy efficiency and clean energy sources (and, I confess, electricity costs), but so far I haven't broken it down because of the flip-side, which is, 'What happens to my animals, which appear to be healthy and happy (to the point of reproducing), if/when I do terminate the system and they go to new homes?'
    - 'Is it ethical to support the suppliers who provide my equipment/animals? (perhaps depending on where you live and your ability to self-source materials/organisms)

    I look forward very much to hearing about the ethics debate. Any chance of live-streaming some of the panels for those of us far, far away, Tony?

    On the intelligence theme, I am currently reviewing a Master's thesis on the topic, which is quite interesting. I will try to encourage the student to make the content available to interested readers here somehow, if possible.
     
  17. Thales

    Thales Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    Good stuff Kat! I think it all hinges on what we mean by Ethical, and how far we want to push that sphere of consideration. Its not very difficult at all to see the entire current and traditional chain of custody that gets animals to end users as unethical in a meaningful way.
     
  18. Joe-Ceph

    Joe-Ceph Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    In the introduction of M.J. Wells' book Octopus: Physiology and Behaviour of an Advanced Invertebrate, he warns against the temptation for humans to make assumptions about the feelings or motives of octopus, and of likening octopus to humans. He points out that octopus and humans diverged from each other on the evolutionary tree so long ago, that any aparent similarities, like intelligence, are a coincidence, and should not be used to infer other similarities, like the ability to experience anything similar to human loneliness, boredom, social bonding (friendship), affection, or even hunger. He supports this by pointing out that octopus are not raised in a social context (family, tribe), but grow up alone, and may eat another of their species they happen to meet, as easily mate with it, and refuse available food for months after laying eggs, for no visible reason. That's not to say that octopus necessarily don't experience boredom, for example, just that we must not infer that they do, based on the fact the humans, and other relatively closely related animals (dogs, apes) would, under similar conditions. We are left to guess at their feelings, assuming they have any at all. Notwithstanding the idiom "happy as a clam", do unintelligent mollusks have feelings?

    The bottom line is, that it is folly to try to guess what an octopus is feeling, but even so, we are morally obligated as animal keepers to make every effort to keep the animals under our care from suffering. I'm willing to believe that any animal that displays curiosity, and is motivated to explore and experiment, has some sort of negative response built in by evolution when it is unable to do so (for humans it's boredom). That's a leap of faith, but I'd rather err on the compassionate side. Is it "cruel" to confine an octopus, even if it has a reasonably large tank, and daily stimulation/interaction (enrichment)? As far as I'm concerned, there's no way of knowing. Does it enrich my life to do so - definitely yes. I'm not willing to forgo what I get out of keeping an octopus, just because of the chance that maybe the octopus is bored. I take reasonable steps to address the boredom issue, and in the absence of any evidence of suffering (constant escape attempts, chewed off limbs, alcohol abuse :smile:) I'm able to conclude that my octopus would rather be in my tank than in the ocean hiding from predators. I have to admit that there's a chance that my octopus is suffering, and that I simply can't tell, but that's a chance I'm willing to take.
     
  19. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    As far as not "assuming" enjoyment, I will take exception. If an animal willingly comes forward for nonaggressive interaction with same or another species when food is not part of the interaction, IMO it highly likely that the animal finds the interaction positive. I will agree that mental pain is not something we are likely to isolate easily.
     
  20. R138

    R138 Larval Mass Registered

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    No. It is not ethically ok to keep an octopus in captivity. They are highly intelligent wild animals. They belong free. It is selfish and cruel to imprison them for our amusement. To love an octopus is to let it be free. Otherwise, we are nothing more than their wardens.
     

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