The seemingly symbiotic relationship where customers lose their dead skin cells and fish get a free meal is back in the news. This time, in my home state of New York.
The procedure has spread like wildfire across the country since its establishment in the United States by John Ho at the Yvonne Hair and Nail Salon in the D.C. area. However, as popularity grew, concerns for the health of salon patrons increased. Many states have imposed bans on the procedure stating that it can cause fungal and bacterial infections because there is no way to sterilize the fish. If New York follows suit, it would become the 15th state to ban the procedure.
Recently, Secretary of State Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, has come out against the procedure. Cortes-Vazquez believes that the procedure is potentially unsanitary and plans to propose a ban at the next meeting of the state’s cosmetology advisory board next month. She is also willing to seek legislative measures to put an end to the practice.
While most of the articles I read on the topic are only concerned with the health of the customer, a local New York politician has finally called attention to the practice as inhumane for the fish. New York Senator Jeff Klein said that the fish used in these procedures have to be partially starved, in addition, they are trained to eat food outside of their natural diet (plankton and the like). If the fish were asked, do you think dead skin cells would be the first choice on their menu? Would it fall anywhere in the top 100?
I can’t help but also wonder whether some of the fish end up eating chips from toe nail polish, making it their last meal. I also worry about casualties of fish getting stepped on accidentally. While fish are small and not as cute and cuddly as other animals, they still merit protection. I look forward to the prospect of an all-out ban in New York and encourage other politicians to follow Jeff Klein’s example and address this inhumane treatment of fish.