Inspectors from the State Veterinary Authority are planning to carry out checks on around 30 percent of stands stalls selling carp, the fish that most Czechs eat for Christmas dinner. There are almost 2,400 such vendors in place around the country.
Almost all Czechs eat carp for Christmas dinner on December 24 and most of these fish are bought at outdoor stands with adjoining tanks that pop up in the week before Christmas on streets and squares around the country.
Some people purchase live carp and kill them at home just prior to preparation. But many prefer to buy fish that are already dead. This involves them being stunned using a mallet before they are killed in a process that leaves the stands bloodied. It is not a sight for the squeamish.
Ensuring that the carp are kept and killed hygienically is the business of the State Veterinary Administration. The organisation’s central director, Zbyněk Semerád, took part in an inspection of a carp sales point on Thursday morning and said his officials would be looking closely at the practices of around one-third of all stands.
Mr. Semerád said that as well as meeting hygiene standards vendors had to ensure welfare conditions. In practical terms this means that vats need to contain circulating or oxygenated water and must not be overfilled.
The boards on which the carp are killed and cut into portions have to be capable of being properly cleaned and disinfected. Vendors are required to possess a kit comprising knives, mallets and cleaning blades.
There must be a sufficient supply of drinking water to clean the boards and waste must be channeled into the waste water system. In addition, the carp have to be killed in accordance with animal rights legislation.
Critics argue that the selling of carp from street stands leads to unnecessary suffering. Tanks can be overcrowded and those who kill the fish at home can do so inexpertly, says Romana Šonková of the Czech branch of Compassion in World Farming.
Last year inspectors carried out checks on over 900 carp stands, uncovering shortcomings in 2.4 percent of cases. This was an improvement on previous years.
The most frequent deficiency was failing to announce the start of sales to regional veterinary authorities and insufficient information regarding the provenance of the fish.
Prices this year are up by seven to 10 percent, with vendors asking CZK 100 a kilo and CZK 110 for choice carp.
As of Wednesday, the State Veterinary Administration said it had registered almost 2,400 such vendors. That figure is around 100 fewer than in 2017.