New Year festivities in Iran trigger animal rights concerns

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By Catherine Hardy
New Year festivities in Iran trigger animal rights concerns

Iran’s Nowruz goldfish tradition clashes with animal rights

Friday, the 1st of April is April Fool’s Day across the many countries in the west.

It is National Environment Day in Iran.

But it is also the 13th of Farvardin, the first month in the Iranian calendar and the final day of the festival of Nowruz. It is the year 1391.

Celebrated for more than 3000 years, it is the equivalent of New Year and celebrates the first day of spring.

Iranians traditionally spend the day outside.

One of the day’s customs involves letting goldfish used for the festival free in local lakes and rivers.

However, the practice has come under fire in recent years from environmentalists and animal rights campaigners.

Save the goldfish!

An estimated five million goldfish perish each year as a result of their role in the Nowruz festivities.

Industrially farmed, they are often kept in poor conditions.

The fishy tale focuses on Haft Seen – a dinner of seven courses.

A bowl of live goldfish is placed on the table. They are seen as a relic from Chinese influence in the country and are considered to be a symbol of happiness.

However, the number of fish that die during the 13-day festival, has prompted animal rights activists to launch the “Save the Goldfish” campaign.

And this year, it seems to have worked. Hassan Rouhani delivered his Nowruz message to the Iranian people beside a table with the customary goldfish replaced by an orange.

Don’t free your fish into the rivers!

The last stage of this year’s campaign focuses on the final day of the festivities.

Activists and local authorities are asking revellers not to liberate their goldfish into local waterways as they spend the day outdoors.

This is because the breed of fish used for Nowruz is, in fact, an aggressive cannibal that scoffs many other aquatic species before dying.