PETA to Petco: We’ll Buy All the Bettas if You End Floundering Fish Sales

COVID-19 Pandemic and Retail Slump Prompt Bailout Proposal

For Immediate Release:
March 26, 2020

Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382

San Diego

Because shoppers are staying at home, PETA sent a letter today offering to ease some of the financial strain facing Petco: The group will buy every single betta fish on the company’s shelves and drop its campaign against the retailer—one that includes graphic video footage of the cruel and deadly betta fish trade in Thailand—if Petco will agree not to sell betta fish again.

“As retailers struggle to stay afloat, Petco should seize PETA’s offer,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “It would be relieved of caring for thousands of fish, and all it has to do is agree not to restock these vulnerable little animals in the future.”

A PETA Asia investigation of 10 facilities in Thailand’s betta fish industry, including two facilities that supply fish to Petco, revealed bettas gasping for air on waterless trays as workers roughly sorted them for shipping. Tens of thousands of fish were kept in often-filthy bottles, the ammonia from their waste quickly contaminating the small volume of water inside the bottles. Some fish, who had likely suffocated, were left rotting on the floor. A previous PETA video exposé revealed listless, sick, and dead bettas floating in small, barren plastic containers at Petco stores across the country.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter to Petco CEO Ron Coughlin follows.

March 26, 2020

Ron Coughlin, CEO


Dear Mr. Coughlin,

As retailers and their employees are hit hard by COVID-19 and people are staying home except to get essential supplies, I’m writing with an offer: PETA will purchase every betta fish on all your stores’ shelves and end our public campaign against Petco’s sale of these fish if you’ll simply agree not to sell them anymore. We have compelling reasons to make this decision an easy one for you.

A recent PETA Asia investigation uncovered what happens to betta fish before they end up at Petco stores. It revealed shockingly unsanitary practices. The eyewitness—who visited 10 breeding factories and packing operations, including two facilities that supply bettas to Petco—saw numerous dead bettas, many on the floor, likely having suffocated. They also say that many fish had died in breeding tanks and that workers didn’t bother to remove the dead bodies. Tens of thousands of fish were housed in often-filthy bottles. Ammonia from their waste builds up, quickly contaminating the small volume of water inside. These fish are typically shipped in very small plastic bags—with no food and often barely enough water to cover their bodies—on journeys that can take days. When fish are transported abroad, the stressful trip can cause them to develop diseases and bacterial infections. These are becoming more antibiotic resistant because of rampant drug use in the tropical fish trade and can be passed on to humans.

Betta fish are so intelligent that they can recognize and bond with their human guardians and even learn tricks from them, such as swimming through a hoop or pushing a ball into a goal. At stores around the country, sensitive and intelligent betta fish are confined to little plastic cups—with scarcely a couple of inches of water inside. Scores of customers have complained about finding dead or sick bettas floating in filthy water at Petco. Such unhygienic conditions put staff and the public at risk, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that “[m]ultidrug-resistant human Salmonella infections have been linked to contact with contaminated water from home aquariums containing tropical fish.” Fish carrying salmonella often do not show any signs of disease, but humans interacting with them can become severely ill.

We hope to hear that you’ll accept our offer and allow us to take all the fish who are suffering and dying in plastic cups at your stores off your hands. I’m sure people would applaud you for that.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk


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