Alvin’s Island Crab House of Death or Why Living Creatures are NOT tchotkes

Many of you may know that I’m generally positive and upbeat, but there are a few things that raise my ire. Seeing critters suffer needlessly, whether big or small, makes me furious. I also love Alvin’s Island. It has always been my son’s favorite surf shop to visit when we come to the beach. However, I cannot abide the hermit crab display in their store.

We visited one of the Panama City Beach locations and found the hermit crab habitat (which was akin to the bleak concrete zoo habitats of old) in total disarray. Both plexiglass cases were littered with dead crab parts, and some entire crabs, out of their shells, decaying, with flies buzzing around. The stench was horrible. Very few of the crabs were noticeably alive or moving. Three small containers for water, with sponges, were entirely empty and bone dry. The adjoining habitat wasn’t any better, except for one filthy pool of water with a sponge.

It made me want to cry. I know…they are crabs. We eat shrimp, crab cakes, lobster. But to see creatures suffer from thirst and neglect because they are treated like holiday souvenirs–it’s shameful. They aren’t nourishing anything except our vapid sense of mindless consumerism. Lindsay wanted to buy all of them and set them free, which I thought was great, except I had concerns about where to set them free (are they indigenous to Florida? could they be an invasive species if set free?), and whether their painted shells would make them easy targets for predatory birds, so we didn’t buy them up. Plus, I figured the store would just order more crabs. They will anyway. The sign on the enclosure said the crabs can live from 5-15 YEARS. For perspective–that’s often the lifespan of a family dog or cat. Patrick and I kept Ms. Peaches (the ugliest critter ever to grace a home), a blind, albino African clawed frog who looked like a pale pink egg yolk, for 6 years, dutifully cleaning out her aquarium, feeding her dried shrimp and doctoring her with antibiotics when she damaged her skin. They can live for up to 40 years. So our commitment to even less-than-cuddly-and-cute small pets is apparent (though I might have re-gifted the grow-a-frog kit if I had known about their Methuselah-like life span).

Lindsay bought a bottle of fresh water and we poured it into the empty water bowls, added sponges and moved a few of the living crabs near the bowls. A small gesture, but hopefully, some of those crabs might live better for a day or two.

What I would rather see happen is for Alvin’s Island to stop selling living animals (and taxidermied ones) as souvenirs. I don’t want a stuffed alligator head or an embryonic shark in a jar or formaldehyde to evoke memories of my beach trip. Nothing about a dead creature says “happy beach trip” to me, especially not with some tacky message plastered across it. And the living animals just suffer on their way to the stores and into homes.

I’m not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but I abhor meaningless, intentional abuse and neglect, inflicting suffering upon the fellow creatures, big and small, of this planet. I hate it even more when it only serves to satisfy our despicable materialism. And I admit…my understanding and awareness of such ideas has changed greatly over the years. I worked for an alligator accessory business a decade ago. And I can’t seem to abstain from bacon, steak or chicken on a regular basis. Regardless of my personal struggle to come to terms with hypocrisy and whether to eat meat or not, I still have to think about Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Looking at the daily glut of animal abuse stories, including hunting endangered animals, farm abuse, puppy mills, animal hoarders, bear bile farms, etc., I question our moral progress. I seriously doubt that humans will give up meat or animal products without some catastrophic event to force our hand, but could we at least treat the creatures, trapped within our eminent domain, with some dignity and compassion?

Rant complete. Blood pressure returning to slightly-high norm.

This entry was posted in Beach, Seagrove, Seashell, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Alvin’s Island Crab House of Death or Why Living Creatures are NOT tchotkes

  1. egg says:

    I went to alvins island in pensacola and the conditions the hermit crabs were in were even worse. It’s so sad that animals are allowed to be treated like this but no one cares because they aren’t “cute and fluffy” like puppies or kittens. I hope Alvin’s Island gets shut down for animal abuse, or atleast are forced to stop selling hermit crabs.

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