New York Students Vote to Save Pablo, the Class Fish
Students in the Upper East Side voted to spare the life of their class pet, a tilapia named Pablo, during a long-term school project that involved growing plants in an aquaponic environment. The setup involved the students raising several small tilapia in an attempt to expose them to the inner-workings of a habitat that utilized fertilizers (in this case, tilapia waste) and posed an important question to the students: whether or not they ought to eat the fish they raised (queue “The Circle of Life“). It became clear soon enough that their tilapia wouldn’t be large enough to grill by the end of the experiment, and thus Pablo came into the picture. Purchased in Chinatown and growing steadily (after a stint of sickness), the students continued their work and were given an ethical conundrum: to save or eat Pablo. The middle school students were deadlocked for weeks and even attracted the attention of PETA. By the end, they decided to spare Pablo, but made no official decision as to whether or not they’d eat the tilapia they were raising come next year.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog detailing the outcome of the project:
I (Michael) wanted a good compromise as the vote was fairly split. I didn’t want there to be a ‘victor’. A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied. We decided to spare Pablo’s life but not make a decision on our own tilapia till next year. I can tell you though, there is a group of fairly passionate kids clamoring for fried Pablo. There is also a growing group now that wants to jailbreak and spring all the fish in chinatown markets to bring them to optimal health and re-home them around the greater New York area.
The most interesting excerpt for me came from the topic of PETA’s interjection, having written to the class and volunteered to feed them if Pablo and the market fish they were to purchase to feed everyone were spared - specifically, I’m fascinated by the questions the class ended up raising about the fishless filets they were offered:
The other thing that brought us over the top was that if we don’t buy supermarket tilapia and don’t kill Pablo, PETA would fully cater the entire lunch for 60 people with fishless fillets, cheese, tartar sauce and fixins. The kids went after PETA about where these fishless delicacies came from. Did they come from a factory that destroyed a habitat? What are the actual ingredients of these fake fillets? What about all the packaging waste they came in? How many trees? etc…
While many might not appreciate the fact that the students could have ended up eating their class pet, I find their project very interesting and an overall positive experience for them as this is the sort of learning material that students ought to be exposed to - where an ecosystem is at their fingertips alongside group decisions and consequences for those decisions. While perhaps not all-encompassing, they’ve experienced fundamental, daily occurrences that affect the world we live in, and they’ve put ‘faces’ on the both their food and the environment that food comes from. By the end of the project they were asking about how green the vegan alternatives to Pablo really were - could anyone really ask for better results?
Click here to read the class blog: https://aquapaolics.wordpress.com/author/michaelpaoli1/
Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Tilapia#/media/File:Til%C3%A1pia_ou_Sarotherodon_niloticus_2.jpg