The RSPCA is investigating a 28-year-old man, Louis Cole of Roehampton, south west London, who posted to YouTube a video of himself eating his live pet goldfish. He is being investigated for animal cruelty carrying a maximum term of six months in jail.
The video was posted online about a fortnight ago and has had about 120,000 hits.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA, a leading animal welfare charity, said: "The RSPCA is investigating after footage of a man swallowing a goldfish was posted on YouTube. As our inquiries are ongoing we cannot give further details at this stage."
The video that led to the investigation shows Cole, a former youth worker, looking into the camera and laughing as he tells viewers he is going to eat his pet goldfish. He picks the live goldfish from its bowl and puts it into his mouth. Viewers can hear the crunching noise as he bites. The tail of the goldfish flicks violently as Cole bites down.
Cole gags as he tries to swallow the fish. He then washes down his "meal" with a glass of water, after which he says: "That was really, really bitter - the most bitter thing I've ever eaten."
According to TNT Magazine, the RSPCA has launched an investigation to determine whether Cole should be prosecuted.
This is not the first time Cole has eaten an animal alive. He has produced other online videos showing him feeding on live animals. There is a video of Cole eating a live tarantula, a scorpion and a crayfish. There is also a video of him blending 10 dead mice and swallowing the paste. The Daily Mail reports he ate a Turkey leg infested with maggots and swallowed a dead duckling from its egg.
According to the Daily Mail, the RSPCA had condemned Cole's online stunts, but since the previous animals he ate live were invertebrates he could not be prosecuted because he had not broken the law. But the RSPCA had described his actions as "gratuitously cruel." However, a goldfish is a vertebrate and the penalty for cruelty to animals in the UK is a fine of 20,000 pounds or six months in prison.
In a letter to Cole, the RSPCA said he is being investigated under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. According to the RSPCA, he is also being investigated for breaching the duty of a pet owner to ensure his animal's welfare.
The letter which Cole posted to his Facebook page, said: "The RSPCA need to interview you regarding an allegation that you may have committed a criminal offense contrary to section 9 & 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. If we cannot speak to you on a voluntary basis, you give us no other choice than to request the police arrest you in order to interview you."
Cole, who according to Metro, calls himself an "attention whore" has said that contrary to impressions, he is not a "cruel person." He said: "I don't want to inflict any pain on these animals, which is why I try to kill them instantly." He acknowledges, however, that many of his friends think his online stunts are intended to grab attention.