Would you wear a necklace with a live fish in it or do you believe it's cruelty to animals?
A necklace which encases live fish set amidst diamonds and other precious stones has caused animal lovers to raise a stink even as its designer claims he does not intend cruelty and merely wants to raise awareness about extinction of coral reefs.
Titled 'Lakshwadeep', the elaborate neckpiece by Lakshya Pahuja displays a small fighter fish swimming in a glass case strung along with diamonds and other precious stones.
"Confining fish to an item so small that they are not allowed any movement and subjecting them to traumatic handling would likely cause them injury and extreme distress and could even result in death," says officials of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The animal rights body says it plans to file criminal charges against the Mumbai designer if he goes ahead with his plan to exhibit the fish necklace at the upcoming five-day India International Jewellery Show beginning August 19.
"What he is doing is cruel and unimaginative and should be punished severely," say PETA activists. Pahuja, however, claims he is being targeted for publicity. "Actually they have not understood the basic concept. I made this piece inspired by the coral reefs of Lakshwadeep that are facing the threat of extinction due to extensive poaching," he told PTI over the phone.
PETA points out that fish are sensitive, intelligent animals capable of feeling pain and suffering. Being handled and then trapped in a necklace -- in which the fish will bang against the sides as the person wearing the necklace moves -- and being confined to a frustrating and confusing environment where oxygen is compromised, is certain to cause them distress, suffering and likely death.
"I had visited Lakshwadeep some years ago and absolutely loved it. Through my jewellery I wanted to show the beautiful sea bed. The beta fish in the necklace is a fighter fish and can live in any habitat. It does not need any special oxygen filters," Pahuja says.
Moreover, he claims that the fish is released into an aquarium after going on display for three to four hours.
The designer had faced the wrath of activists and animal lovers when he had displayed the same necklace at a jewellery fair in 2007.
"I have decided I am not going to display the necklace as these people are going to create a ruckus and commotion. Why don't they take a look at aquariums, which earn profits by charging visitors entry fees to see large sea fish housed in small chambers?" asks Pahuja.
The designer says he has worked on a variety of jewellery that is used to create awareness and raise funds to aid social causes such as breast cancer and AIDS, among others.