IMAT 2012 Q15 [Flaw | Fish Pedicure]

One of the fastest­-growing beauty treatments in Britain, fish pedicures ­ where tiny toothless fish called garra rufa smooth feet by eating dead skin ­- has come under scrutiny from animal rights campaigners. One campaigner said, ‘Fish are covered by the Animal Welfare Act. They need a stable environment and clean water, uncontaminated by perfume or lotions.’ A spa in London’s West End was closed recently by the local council when many of the fish in its pedicure pool died.
There should be a complete ban on this type of pedicure, or else there will soon be no garra rufa.

Which one of the following is the best statement of the flaw in the above argument?

A. Beauty spas which offer fish pedicures are not especially numerous at present.
B. It would be less harmful if people washed their feet before using the spa.
C. Fish in the wild are likely to die if their environment changes.
D. The death of the fish in the London spa may not be a typical occurrence.
E. The public does not immediately associate fish with the Animal Welfare Act.

Tips for solving Flaw in the Argument style Questions:

  1. Read the question first
  2. Read the passage
  3. Find the conclusion, highlight keywords
  4. Find assumptions that the argument lies on
  5. Attack these assumptions with the answer options
  6. Discard any invalid options and you’ll have your answer

Reading over the text, we can establish that the focus is on the use of garra rufa in spas and how the author believes this should be banned as it is harmful to the fish. To find the flaw in teh argument, we need to find a way to prove that the evidence the author is using to state these fish are endangered is flawed. What is the evidence used? That at one specific location in London the fish died. Now let’s see if any of the options attacks this evidence:

A. Beauty spas which offer fish pedicures are not especially numerous at present;

This does not show a flaw in the argument. The number of spas does not affect the health of the fish, it is what goes on inside the spa that we should worry about. It also says that this is one of the fastest-growing beauty trends, so even if this answer had an impact on the argument we could easily speculate that the numbers are growing quickly. Therefore A cannot be the answer.

B. It would be less harmful if people washed their feet before using the spa;

This is not the flaw in the argument, it is an attempted solution. If anything this answer is almost admitting that it is harmful by offering a solution to make it less harmful. In addition, washing your feet at home may not even solve the problem because the stuff you use to wash it could contain perfumes or other chemicals. Therefore B cannot be the answer.

C. Fish in the wild are likely to die if their environment changes;

This is not a relevant answer because it is supporting the argument of the author and does not provide the flaw. If fish in the wild are likely to die if their environment changes, then putting these fish into the new environment (the spa) is likely to affect them. Also, there is probably frequent changing of the environment via different buckets, people’s feet, etc… So this would reinforce the argument instead of showing the flaw. Therefore C cannot be correct.

D. The death of the fish in the London spa may not be a typical occurrence;

Notice that if this was a rare occurrence, then why would we have to ban the use of these fish? All they need is clean water and a stable environment, which is something that could easily be met. Notice the language in the text too, it says gives very specific details about the location of the one closed spa, which can also be a clue to show that it is a rare occurrence and not happening all over the place (treat it like an abnormally). Therefore if this was not a normal occurrence, the fish have otherwise been fine and the author’s argument has a hole in it. D is the correct answer.

E. The public does not immediately associate fish with the Animal Welfare Act;

This is a distractor option. The fish are covered under this acting meaning that they need to have a stable and clean environment. The fact that the public does not immediately associate the two together does not matter, the law is the law. The author’s argument is still strong because it is still right to argue that their safety is not being met under this act and therefore they need to be banned in spas. Therefore E is not the answer.