Why I Cried During a Prawning Session

Prawn noodles

Prawn noodles: a common dish in Singapore

While the title of today’s post sounds really dramatic, that isn’t my intention at all. That (my crying) was basically what happened while Ken and I were out last week, so I’m just going to tell the story as it is.


Do you guys know what prawning is? Also known as prawn fishing, prawning is a common pastime in Singapore. It’s just like fishing, except instead of baiting for fish, you bait prawns.

I don’t prawn given that I’m a vegetarian, but many people in Singapore do. Some find the activity fun and a nice way to bond with friends, while some prawn for the seafood feast thereafter. There are even meetups where people meet to prawn! Ken himself used to prawn with his friends as a social activity.

Out at a Furniture Fair

So last weekend, Ken and I were at a furniture fair. We meant to attend a Jseminar but couldn’t get a seat so we visited this fair instead, which was next door.

Turned out to be a silver lining because we found a mattress we like: something we needed to buy before our wedding as part of Chinese customs! So we purchased it on the spot. One thing off our wedding to-do list!

Just as we were about to leave, Ken caught sight of this makeshift prawning site as part of the fair attractions. As long as you make a minimum spend at the fair, you get a free prawning session, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Any prawns you catch during your session will be yours to keep.

Prawning site

The prawning site

Free Prawning Session

Ken and I qualified for a free 10-minute session with our mattress purchase. Being a vegetarian, I declined, but Ken was keen for the food (prawns). So, why not?

So I sat and watched as he set himself up.

Mother and daughter at the park

The prawning pool. Lots of prawns swimming inside! The water was intentionally dyed black to make it harder to catch the prawns.

Prawning: Bait

Prawn food: the bait.

Prawning: Ken hooking the bait onto the prawning rod

Ken hooking the bait onto the prawning rod

Prawning: Ken waiting for a prawn to catch the bait

Prawning in action

First Prawn, Caught!

It didn’t take long — like one minute? — before he successfully caught a prawn. In comparison, a lady who was prawning in the pool before us sat for over five minutes without catching anything! Either Ken was a prawning pro or he got lucky there.

Prawning: First prawn caught!

First prawn caught. Check out its “legs” (periopods?) as marked by the two red arrows. They were really long!

Prawning: Unhooking the prawn

The helper unhooking the prawn from the rod for Ken

Prawning: Pail with one prawn

Dumped into a pail… Notice its “legs” broke during the “struggle”. One was tossed away while the other was left inside the pail.


While I was quite excited when Ken caught his first prawn since I’ve never prawned before, I quickly felt a wave of sadness as Ken promptly caught a second prawn in the next minute, followed by a third one after another two minutes.

Prawning: Second prawn caught

The second prawn, captured

Prawning: Prawn struggling

The poor prawn struggling as Ken removed the hook from its mouth. There was no way it could have won against a human.

Prawning: Two prawns in the pail

Prawn #2, dumped into the pail with his friend. Looks like his “legs” broke off in the scuffle too. :/

Prawning: Baiting the prawns

Back to baiting for prawns…

Prawning: Close-up of prawn #3

Close-up of prawn #3

Prawning: Unhooking another prawn

The assistant yanking the hook out of prawn #3’s mouth…

Prawning: Three prawns and counting

Prawn #3, dumped into the pail with his two now-almost-dead friends

Why was I sad? I don’t know.

Maybe it was from seeing the prawns struggle as they were yanked out of their homes — the pool — by the rod. Maybe it was from empathizing the pain the prawns had to be going through from being dangled off a rod by their mouths, having a sharp hook ripped out of their tiny mouths, and then carelessly tossed into a pail to die. Maybe it was from seeing the prawns get hurt as they struggled in vain (two prawns had their “legs” broken off while one’s mouth was damaged from the unhooking).

Maybe it was the knowingness that as much as these prawn struggle, they (and their friends) were never going to stand a chance against the humans planning to eat (and in the process kill) them.

Beginning to Cry

As Ken went back for his next catch, I started to cry. Not the loud boo-hoo-hoo type of crying of course, but just silent tears rolling down my face.

I busied myself with photo taking so no one would notice me crying. Ken was oblivious as he was concentrating on his prawning, while one of the prawning assistants saw me crying and kept looking over. I think he probably thought I was crazy. XD

After a few minutes, Ken looked over and finally saw that I was crying. He instantly guessed that it was because of the prawns, stopped prawning right away, and told the assistants he was done. They were surprised since he still had time left on the clock, but he told them it was okay and he didn’t want to continue anymore.

While the assistants were helping him to pack the three prawns Ken caught, we briefly discussed if it was feasible to release those prawns. But we realized it wasn’t because (a) releasing them back into the prawning site meant they would be “caught” by other people at some point, leading to the same fate of pain and death, and (b) their body parts were already damaged when Ken fished them out, so they wouldn’t be able to survive even if we were to release them “into the wild”. Not to mention that the conditions in the seas would be different from whatever they had been accustomed to, which meant an even lower chance of survival.

It was basically the end of the road for the poor prawnies. So I told Ken to just take them home and cook them for (his) dinner, so that at least their suffering/death wouldn’t have been in vain.

Prawning: Ken with the prawns

Ken with his “prize”: three prawns from a few minutes of prawning

Prawning: Feeling sad for the prawns

Me, with my tears and tissue

Prawning: Ken and Celes

A final shot to commemorate the day. Ken said he had no mood to smile because I was crying.

Prawning: Ken and Celes, smiling this time

Another try, smiling this time 🙂

Random Musings

I don’t normally write about things like preventing animal cruelty and feeling compassion for animals on PE (even though I feel that way), but I thought this experience is a nice chance to share this message with all of you.

I talk a fair bit about showing compassion for humans on the blog, but truth is, compassion isn’t limited to just humans: it’s a universal quality that extends to animals and other beings too. I believe quite a few readers here on PE are animal lovers: just to name a few long-time readers, reader Susan has a dog named Cody, Sharon recently got a new pup named Pepper, while Laurel has a horse.

I myself don’t have any pets (years of rearing fish and tortoises when young made me realize that I should not have a pet unless I’m 100% sure I can create an environment where it can thrive and live a long life). Maybe in the future I’ll have a pup or cat, but I don’t see it happening soon since I’m not ready for that kind of commitment yet.

Maybe as we continue to live a life of excellence and care for humans, we should also think about how be more compassionate towards other living beings too. This may not come in the form of switching to a fully plant-based diet, but in the form of:

  1. Being mindful of food wastage (food wastage means causing harmful to the environment and wasting the lives sacrificed in the process of making your meal possible)
  2. Having a less meat-heavy diet (it’s healthier too!)
  3. Supporting organizations that are cruelty-free
  4. Consuming free-range produce and livestock (whatever little helps)

It’s all about the little things we can do, one at a time.

I found this article particularly inspiring: Carnist Challenge: Making Meat-Eating Cruelty-Free. It’s written by someone who admits he’s not ready to give up meat, but he cares enough to make little changes — even if small — to reduce animal cruelty in the world. Because every little bit matters.

As for the prawns, Ken eventually cooked them for prawn noodles.

Dead, uncooked prawns

The prawns, now completely dead

Prawn noodles

…and here’s his meal. Ken was afraid to show me the picture because he was worried I’d cry, but I told him my sadness was only at the point when the prawns were caught/struggling because of their helplessness and untimely demise.

And You?

That’s all I have to say. How about you?

What are your views about compassion, and compassion for animals?

What can you do to do your part for other living beings?

Pictures © Celestine Chua