Conger cuddling is a traditional event in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, in which a dead conger eel is thrown at members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The practice was stopped in 2006 when an animal rights activist threatened bad publicity.
Part of the town's "Lifeboat Week", the eel is attached to a rope and thrown at nine people standing on flowerpots in a manner similar to skittles. There are two teams involved in a last man standing competition.
The event, which attracted around 3,000 people annually between the 1970s and 1990s, was used to raise funds for the RNLI. It has been called the "most fun a person could have with a dead fish". The event would generally raise around £5,600 (equivalent to £7,307 in 2015) for the RNLI.
The event started in the early 1970s when Richard Fox, a retired publican, organised the first event. It became a tradition of the town, drawing numerous spectators. Fishermen would catch the eels in their nets accidentally, freeze them and defrost them for the competition. However, in 2006 the RNLI made the decision that the event was "inappropriate" after a complaint was made that it was 'disrespecting fish'. The complaint was made by an animal rights activist who threatened the RNLI with negative publicity. When it was next held (28 July 2006) the eel had been replaced by a buoy and there were plans made for a plastic eel to be made in time for a 2007 contest.
After seven years, the game was planned for a return in 2012 with a real dead eel, but not as part of Lifeboat Week, instead as a game in the "Lyme Lympics", a set of odd games. The Lympics were to be filmed for Rory McGrath's television series Great British Adventure, with McGrath joining in himself, however the event was cancelled on the day.
- Clarke, Matt, Practical Fishkeeping. "Conger cuddling cancelled Archived 2007-01-28 at the Wayback Machine.". Accessed 29 July 2006.
- Reuters, 29 July 2006. "Net closes on conger cuddling[permanent dead link]". Accessed 29 July 2006.
- Etim, Thelma, BBC News. 29 July 2006. "Fish lover's anger ends eel event". Accessed 29 July 2006.
- "Threat ends dead eel toss tradition". NBC News. Associated Press. 31 July 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- Steven Morris (29 July 2006). "Conger eel fund-raising game slithers out of favour".
- "Lyme Regis tradition is a bit fishy". Dorset Echo. 31 July 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- "Lyme Regis: TV's Rory McGrath to enter conger cuddling contest". Bridport & Lyme Regis News. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- Bell, Anne (1 August 2012). "Safety fears sink return of conger contest". Bridport & Lyme Regis News. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
- Photographs from Lifeboat Week at LymeRegis.com