Keeping Octopus in Captivity.

Discussion in 'Ceph Care Ethics' started by pakoc, May 12, 2003.

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  1. pakoc

    pakoc Larval Mass Registered

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    I am an academic studying animal behaviour in invertebrate species. I know this is probably a waste of time since everyone reading this, by the very fact they are on this site, will disagree with me.
    I am against keeping Octopus in captivity.
    Why?
    For three reasons.
    1. They are too short lived
    2. They are too intelligent
    3. There is too little knowledge about them to make them viable.

    Firstly I can imagine everyone sharpening their typing fingers and jumping to the defense of their hobby but please read my arguement before you do this.
    Octopus are very intelligent. Owners interpret this intelligence as one of the reasons they like keeping octopus, that they will do tricks like opening jars and engaging in tug o wars with food tweezers etc. But I have noticed that virtually every post asking for advice contains references to previous octopus that have died. The attitude to this hobby seems to be that, much like an inanimalte object, you learn by your mistakes. You seem to buy your octopus, kill it, learn from the errors you can identify, kill the next one etc until finally you can keep the creature alive for all of its few months / years of life. You pay for this knowledge by having to purchase new stock, the octopus pays with its life. Am I missing something here? Is there a contradiction between your supposed passion for these animals and your willingness to sacrifice them?
    Because of the apparent widespread failure to breed them (and I'm not talking about the females that lay eggs within a few weeks of their capture) it seems that you are encouraging the decline of these species by buying wild caught individuals and depleting natural stocks. Every wild octopus that is collected reduced the viability of the species. What a waste to place this specimen in a tank, watch it lay eggs, ask someone what to do next, invariably watch them all die or even manage to rear a few and give them away to like minded 'hobbyists' to watch for a while until they too perish. All you are all doing is removing viability, population and habitat.
    So here's my test for you all to check your own interest and where it lies.
    Firstly, I bet most of you recognise yourself in my description of failed keepers killing successive octopus and getting another. But if your interest is not selffish and you are not into keeping octopus just for your own gratification and amusement until they die, then use your interest in supporting the species. Advocate that octopus should be protected from collecting in their natural environment. Tell members not to cage them but to spend their money on ecotourism and go to visit the real areas where these animals live. This support will provide the locals with an alternative source of income.
    And now everyone is shaking their heads and saying that won't work or I'm being silly or what difference would us doing that make. When the real objection is that you are not in fact interested in the animals you have in your possession for their own sake. You are interested in how they make you feel, the time you can spend engaged in your hobby, the pleasure in viewing their beautiful forms and colours, the recognition of posting humerous messages and anecdotes on sites like this, the wonderful feeling of telling people how unusual your hobby is: all about self and how you feel. You see, not about the octopus at all.
     
  2. cthulhu77

    cthulhu77 Titanites Supporter

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    You raise a common complaint voiced by many ecologists that I run into...yes, it is true that we are removing wild animals and keeping them from their place in the great circle of reproduction...but:
    The bulk of information that has come to light regarding animals has come from animals in captivity. It isn't possible (yet) to follow an octopus for 24 hours in the wild, and captive study is our only means to learn more and more about them.
    The locals who sell octos for the animal trade typically get 3x the price they do for the octos that they catch for the food trade, and they are actually quite protective of the reefs that support this income animal. Everyone has heard the horror stories about cy. use ...maybe ten or twenty years ago it was used, but I have met dozens of professional native collectors who don't, and furthermore, had no idea what I was talking about, and had never heard of anyone using poisons.
    This could go on and on. Animal rights protesters are always trying to do what is best for the animals, which is nice, they just need to focus their energies in a better venue.
    Happy cephing!
    Greg
     
  3. scarmig

    scarmig Cuttlefish Registered

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    Philosophical questions aside, I don't think bimacs are in any danger of being extinct.

    Plus, if there *is* a danger, wouldn't it be nice to know that there are a few hundred capable ceph-keepers out there?

    Philosophically...

    Cephs may be intelligent, and they may be capable. But they are not as intelligent or capable as humans. You may have moral problems with "might makes right", but it *is* the law of the jungle. A jungle that cephs occupy "naturally".
     
  4. Clem

    Clem Architeuthis Supporter Registered

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    Re: Keeping Octopus in Captivity.

    Then, like it or not, you are benefitting directly from the observations and data amassed by studies of "captive" cephalopods and other invertebrates. Even the act of discounting the scientific value of such studies constitutes "use."

    "Eco-tourism" presents its own set of problems. Habitats can be stressed by this supposedly benign activity, natural rhythms and animal behaviors interrupted and curtailled by human presence. Even if your idealized eco-tourist observes all the rules while snorkelling/diving, he or she can wreak havoc by the simple act of walking down a trail: seeds and spores carried in the treads of footwear brought from home set up exotic new outposts and displace native flora. Spiders and insects in luggage and clothing displace native fauna. Flying to the eco-village burns fossil fuels and requires the construction of enlarged landing facilities, and on, and on.

    Besides, the "locals" might well have their own ideas about what constitutes enlightened husbandry.

    Your comments suggest that the average cephalopod keeper is only a little better than Dr. Josef Mengele. Over-use of accusatory language (kill, kill, sacrifice, cage, kill) won't win you any converts to the cause of "enlightened" conservation, or save octopus, squid and cuttlefish from the depredations of "hobbyists." In fact, there's very little in your essay about cephalopods, the nominal objects of your interest and activism, and quite a lot of uninformed conjecture about the psychological complexions of people. Perhaps you should consider a different course of studies.

    In the meantime, you might enjoy the "Hate Mail for Like-Minded Conservationists" thread, here at TONMO.

    Yours truly,

    Adam Eli Clem
     
  5. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Re: Keeping Octopus in Captivity.

    Firstly, pakoc, welcome to TONMO.com! I'm glad you're here. :) I hope you become engaged and do find this site useful and insightful, as Clem suggested.

    Next -- you are wrong in stating that "by the very fact they are on this site" means that everyone will disagree with you. It's simply not true. Cephalopod Care makes up only part of the TONMO.com community. Granted, it's a significant component, but this is not wholly a site about Cephalopod Care. Have a look at our Site FAQ for a partial list of what we cover, but the upshot is that it's about all things related to cephalopods.

    I do take issue with your conclusion that octopus owners are simply killing and sacrificing them. Are all cat owners killing cats? This Website, is, in fact, helping octopus owners do a better job of keeping octopuses as "pets", if you will. There is a plethora of dog, cat, snake and what have you owner sites out there, which are essentially doing the same thing that our Cephalopod Care section does here: providing and sharing information to help answer people's questions about caring for their pets. If someone posts a note here about sacrificing or killing their octopus, the note will be removed.

    Simply put, the intentions here are good. I believe that we as humans are meant to live in harmony with earth's creatures. Essentially, since the beginning of our existence we have kept animals as pets, in one form or another. If you want to debate the merits of that aspect of our human tendancies, OK, but I'm not sure I subscribe to the idea that octopuses should not be kept because of their high intelligence. I've owned a few dogs myself (I've never been an octopus owner, BTW), and I found them to be remarkably intelligent and emotional creatures. I treated them with full respect for their lives -- I think the octopus owners in our community are doing the same for theirs.

    I guess the general assessment on my part is that I trust our species (humans) are caring, nurturing and good, and that our endeavor to learn more about octopuses can ONLY be good for both humans and octopuses.

    Thanks for starting this interesting discussion! I'm sure this thread will grow, I look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts. :)
     
  6. rrtanton

    rrtanton Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    Pakoc, thank you for starting an intriguing topic and for being so collected and diplomatic. You're right, it's an understatement that this could be a hot issue here, and yet I share Tony's perspective on this site--the concern and interest most of us here have for these animals means we would not aggressively dismiss your concerns. Indeed, I am fascinated by the diversity of Tonmo members and am pleased to see such a community flourishing.

    I considered a very lengthy post, but I understand that simplicity is best. So, in (relative) brief:

    --Tonmo.com is a small, specialized community, which gives an idea of the obscurity of our hobby. Cephkeeping is a tiny fraction of the aquarium hobby. Even accounting for the losses in collection and shipping, perhaps outnumbering the viable specimens taken home by aquarists, I very strongly doubt wild collection can do more than depress local populations. Your assertion that "every octopus collected diminishes the viability of the species" is, I feel, incorrect from an ecologist's perspective...but I should let the ecologists hash that one over.
    --A robust fishery exists for all cephs, especially squid and octopus. I am certain that at various points in the past (regardless of whatever it may be today) these fisheries were quite sustainable and at the same time titanic compared to the strongest of hobbyist demand.
    --Some species should not be collected, either for fragility and lifespan or for potentially extreme rarity and a genuine risk of harming the species long-term.
    --It is our responsibility to encourage responsible wild collection, and to encourage captive breeding whenever possible.
    --Some genuine contributions to science do come from the aquarium community, however small they may be.
    --I do not believe it is inherently immoral to keep, kill, eat, or otherwise make use of other animals. Like most of us, I do draw a line based on my own "benefit/cost analysis," but will eat meat and have killed and prepared my own. I believe much of our livestock practices could stand serious improvement, but while this may move me to pay more for an animal product or drug using responsible animal research, it will not move me to boycott or to reject a lifesaving drug.
    --I do not believe cephs are more intelligent than many domesticated livestock...I DO believe that they are effectively an alien form of intelligence to our own, perhaps as different as genuine aliens might be, which complicates efforts to gague their intelligence.

    My opinions on this are complicated, so I will not fully discuss them here. I love animals deeply, in ways that my flat statements might disguise. I would NEVER eat dog or cat by choice, but I am aware this is purely due to my emotional association with these creatures. I do not exorcise emotion from my decisions, but I try VERY hard not to allow it complete control. Often, I fail... :wink:...and sometimes I am quite happy to do so.

    Are you generally arguing from an animals' rights perspective? That would suggest to me a philosophical question that goes beyond the details of cephkeeping itself. Even then, I am far more on the side of "humans first." Please do not think that I am happy with this arrangement...I would be much happier if meat grew on trees.

    Please do not feel that you are being "piled upon" by the weight of opinion posted here...you DID, as you note, pick a cephkeeping community. We encourage you to contribute, discuss and debate with us, and I look forward to hearing more from you on this subject and many others.

    rusty
     
  7. Tintenfisch

    Tintenfisch Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    I agree wholeheartedly and would like to expand this [fragility] to include, in my opinion, exotic animals requiring extensive shipping and proven to have massive mortality en route. I disagree with the keeping of cephs (and other species) that need to be collected in large numbers from one location, ensuring that at least a single individual survives the stress of being shipped halfway around the planet.
     
  8. Gayla

    Gayla Blue Ring Supporter

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    pakoc,
    As a student of invertebrate behavior, then I am sure you are already aware of the numerous publications of Jennifer Mather on octopus behavior. The following addresses the ethics of invertebrate treatment:

    TITLE: Animal Suffering: An Invertebrate Perspective.
    Source: Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2001, Vol. 4 Issue 2, p151, 6p
    Author(s): Mather, Jennifer A.
    Abstract: Consideration of the welfare of other animals often is anthropocentric, focusing usually on mammals similar to humans. This article argues the necessity of evaluating the extension of such consideration more widely to invertebrates. Although unlike humans, some groups such as cephalopod molluscs probably have the potential for pain and suffering. In addition, a morality of care, rather than one of rights, and the damage humans do to themselves by cruel treatment of animals both argue for the extension of consideration to all animal species. This consideration predicts extension of basic care of cephalopods from simple housing and feeding into areas such as behavioral enrichment.[ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

    This is from the end of the paper:
    "One aspect of animal care touching directly on indirect suffering is the alleviation of boredom. Intelligent vertebrates such as monkeys and parrots often suffer from the restrictions captivity imposes on their natural behavior (Shepherdson, Mellen, & Hutchins, 1998). Octopuses are highly exploratory and even play (Mather & Anderson, 1999), but we do not know whether they suffer from the limitations of confinement. To prove that octopuses get bored, researchers would have to know that (a) octopuses are capable of boredom; (b) in confinement, they become negative and self-destructive; and (c) such behavior reverts when they are given enrichment. As yet, we do not know if they meet these conditions, but the obvious positive effects for animal keepers and the public has led to the enrichment attempts described in the following article (Anderson & Wood, 2001/this issue)."
    Here's the citation for the Anderson/Wood article:
    Anderson, R. C., & Wood, J. B. (2001/this issue). Enrichment for Giant Pacific octopuses: Happy as a clam? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 4, 157–168.

    A few points:
    1. Dr. Mather has produced dozens of studies on the behavior of octopuses - which is to say I consider her a major authority on that topic. She cares deeply for these creatures, and has pushed the topic of their intelligence and the need for their ethical treatment. To my knowlege, she does not condemn the keeping of captive animals but advocates for the enrichment of their living spaces.
    2. Captive octopuses frequently die because they are short-lived. Someone who keeps octopuses will have more ex-pets than someone who keeps dogs. It is natural for a keeper to feel responsible and want to improve the conditions for the next octopus, but it is very likely that the keeper was not at fault in most cases.
    4. I am a graduate student of zoology currently studying the behavior of Octopus cyanea in Hawaii, and I have benefitted tremendously by "hobbyists" - really just amateur scientists who do what they do because they love it, not because they get paid - who share how they care for their animals.
    5. In my experience (11years), I've never heard of a scientist - in the buisiness of gaining that knowledge there is "too little" of - taking exception to keeping short-lived species, and I have only heard objections to keeping intellegent species in poor conditions. I don't think that this is because scientists are not concerned with ethics, but because they are less likely to athropomorphize the animals they work with. So it is curious to me that you seem to portray your views in such dramatic and sentimental terms.
    6. This post is way too long and I probably violated some copyright laws here (but I hope not).

    pakoc - I hope you stick around and learn more about the site and those who visit it.

    Gayla
     
  9. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Gayla, thanks for that post!!

    Good points by both Rusty and T -- I suppose I should hasten to add that I (and I'm sure just about everyone here) do not condone the mishandling of any creatures, be they octopuses or any other living thing (except maybe the house centipede... inside joke...) My comments are more geared toward the general act of cephalopod keeping. The discussion definitely gets more complex when you introduce blue rings, mimics, nautilus, and others... but even in those circumstances I don't think any pithy blanket statements (such as "it should never, ever be done") can apply.

    Further, and I know this may be extreme, and I realize I am the Webmaster here, but I really feel compelled to voice my opinion -- I feel that bad things should really stop happening, and good things should continue happening. In fact, perhaps activity in good things should even increase, but I also would defer to any future research in this area.

    :P ...sorry... :)
     
  10. Gayla

    Gayla Blue Ring Supporter

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    I love that! I am really going to have to remember that one! :lol:
     
  11. Tintenfisch

    Tintenfisch Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    Although the question remains whether mediocre things should continue to happen at precisely the same rate, or at a slightly decreased rate, or whether the population at large should increase its optimism and thereby perceive mediocre things as slightly better than mediocre, indicating that their occurrence should experience a slight increase in frequency...

    :snorkel: (this being a good emoticon whose use should increase) ;)
     
  12. Gayla

    Gayla Blue Ring Supporter

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    :snorkel: :snorkel: :snorkel: help! i'm drowning in it! :snorkel: :snorkel: :snorkel:
    You guys are too funny :notworth:
     
  13. Clem

    Clem Architeuthis Supporter Registered

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    I would also like to see more good things happening, and less bad things happening. Unless, that is, the bad things happen to giant pelagic jellyfish. I'd like to see more of that.

    :meso: :cthulhu:
     
  14. cthulhu77

    cthulhu77 Titanites Supporter

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    Oh yes, I think we can all agree that jellyfish are not at all deserving of any kind fate...hey, lets study those! Are you sure they don't taste like chicken???? :D Oh wait, I am sure some sophmore will write in who loves jellyfish and wants to" nuke the gay whales for jesus" too!
    Sorry, it is my current favorite bumper sticker...until I get this one printed up!
    soon to come:[/img]

    We have t shirts also...lots of ceph stuff!
    Happy ceph keeping!
    Greg
     
  15. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

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    ....I just lurv that bumper sticker .... we're gonna get some squid ones made up!
     
  16. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    I would argue that mediocre things play a critical part in all happenings. While bad things should undoubtedbly cease, and good things should continue (or indeed increase, but subject to conflicting findings in future study), the mediocre things should maintain their current course. This, because without mediocre things, all things would be good, thereby diluting the effectiveness of good things, and rendering them mediocre. Some may argue that mediocre things will become bad, which may in fact be the case, but at that time the process should be reapplied, ensuring a very bright future indeed. Unless that future study shows otherwise. Meanwhile, optimism and pessimism should be calibrated according to the beliefs of the individual... and pessimism will really be the portender of mediocre things, as bad things will have gone away. I suppose I should do my part in helping end all bad things, by ending this post abruptly, if awkwardly.
     
  17. cthulhu77

    cthulhu77 Titanites Supporter

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    I don't know how to answer that. Yikes. I haven't run across such verbage since I was at my last gallery opening!!!
     
  18. rrtanton

    rrtanton Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    I've said it before, and I'll say it again...and again...and again.

    You are the strangest people I have ever known.

    I'm so proud to be a member of this community...sniff... :notworth:

    8)

    rusty
     
  19. cthulhu77

    cthulhu77 Titanites Supporter

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    Don't be ashamed of us! Anyone who dedicates this much time to a shell-less snail with 8-10 arms has to be a little bit odd...ok, so maybe we push the envelope a little on that one. But hey! It is fun! Someday we will have to have a TONMO meeting someplace (warm and with the ocean would be nice) so we can glue comments to people!
    Greg
     
  20. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Yes, the first official TONMOCON plans are bubbling in my brain... have to sort out a thing or two first, but watch this space... :wink:
     
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