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Man Filmed Swallowing Live Goldfish At Fun Fair

Claire Reid

| Last updated 

Man Filmed Swallowing Live Goldfish At Fun Fair

A man has appeared in court after being filmed swallowing a live goldfish at a fun fair, before washing it down with lager.

Twenty-seven-year-old Josh Coles was caught after his partner shared the grim footage on Snapchat with the caption: "He ate my goldfish."

The 14-second clip shows Coles holding the live fish in his hand before throwing it into his mouth and knocking it back with beer. After, he opens his mouth and sticks out his tongue, showing that his mouth is empty.

Warning: distressing images



Coles, from Tiverton in Devon, initially denied one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal but changed his plea to guilty to avoid having to go to a trial.

Exeter Magistrates Court was told that the fish would have been 'under stress' and would have gone through 'unnecessary suffering' as it passed slowly through his digestive system before dying.

Coles was given a 12-month community order and was banned from keeping fish for five years, as well as being ordered to pay a £85 victim surcharge and £300 court costs.


He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and attend up to five rehabilitation activity days to consider decision-making and alcohol consumption.

Prosecutor Lindi Meyer urged magistrates to consider a custodial sentence and told the court the fish would have suffered injuries to its scales while being handled, before it was swallowed, and that the 'acidic environment' of Coles' stomach would have caused more pain and left the fish 'deprived of oxygen'.

Meyer said: "There was never going to be any other outcome but death from his actions. These cases are not unusual, and courts have taken them very seriously.

"It was videoed and posted on social media by his girlfriend. He said it was initially a stunt for social media and the goldfish was OK and he hadn't swallowed it.


"He claimed it had been won at the fair and it was already half dead. He was smiling when he said that.

"He seemed bemused by the investigation and asked what would happen as it is only a goldfish.

"[In the footage] he swallows a number of times before showing empty mouth to the camera."

In mitigation, Jeremy Tricks told magistrates Coles has ADHD and mentioned 'countless incidents in the past where he has done things suggested to him by friends and family'.


The court heard he has twice broken his neck due to his poor 'decision making'.

Tricks said: "There was an incident a couple of days ago where someone suggested he rode a fitness ball down the stairs.

"That he did and put a hole in the wall. He has [also] broken his neck on more than one occasion."

Speaking about the video specifically, he added: "There are people egging him on and he does it with no thought whatsoever. It's idiotic


"Typical of those suffering with ADHD, there is no thought of consequence.

Josh Coles appeared in court over the shocking incident. Credit: SWNS
Josh Coles appeared in court over the shocking incident. Credit: SWNS

"He accepts he did something which is very stupid."

Speaking after the case, RSPCA inspector John Pollock, who investigated for the animal welfare charity, said: "The vet report highlighted how the goldfish would have slowly died due to acidic juices in his digestive tract. While it may have seemed funny at the time, it is not a nice end for any animal.

"I believe that any reasonable person would be aware that swallowing live animals would cause those animals to suffer.

"The RSPCA is opposed to the giving of live animals as prizes and would say to people who sees this, don't be tempted.

"Animal ownership is a big responsibility that needs to be planned and well thought out - not a spur of the moment thing that happens just because someone has won a prize. Games offering animals as prizes don't take this into consideration. Very often the 'prize' animals suffer miserably, as the busy fairground, show or even country fete is just too much for them.

"Goldfish are often offered as prizes but are easily stressed. They may suffer from shock, oxygen starvation or even die from changes in water temperature. Many fairground fish die before their new owners can get them home - or soon afterwards.

"Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is an offence to enter into an arrangement with a person reasonably believed to be under 16, who is not accompanied by an adult, whereby an animal is to be won as a prize.

"Help to stop this by contacting your local authority or the event organiser and ask them to adopt a policy of not allowing animals to be given as prizes at any fundraising activities held in their buildings or on their land."

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

Topics: UK News, Animals

Claire Reid
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