This week Wayne Pacelle wrote about the trade and possession of large, dangerous,
and exotic constricting snakes. Not my favorite subject by a long shot, but I realize
that what is happening to them here and in other places is not humane or compassionate.
Ps. 145 says that God is compassionate to all His creatures. If you don't believe in the
Bible, I hope you believe in compassion.
He notes that for the last couple of years the pet trade has been involved in the
importing of large numbers of snakes in the country. Merchants are able to find willing
buyers for dangerous yellow anacondas and reticulated pythons. Sadly, these exotic
fanciers in time come to realize that they are in over their heads. The snakes endup
sequestered in small aquariums or holding cells. Some are shunted off to sanctuaries
while others are starved or killed. And Florida has seen a huge number of exotic
snakes like the Burmese pythons colonizing there and causing havoc to the native
Yes, these snakes are dangerous, and recently two adults were sentenced to 12 years
re their negligence in allowing a python to slither into a baby crib, killing the 2-year
old sleeping in it. And then we have to realize that these snakes are also victims. The
US Fish and Wildlife Services should have policies which would halt the import of these
dangerous snakes to our shore.
But it is not for lack of trying by them. They are being hampered by a special interest
group. According to Jim Snyder of Bloomberg, there's a lobby led by the US Association
of Reptile Keepers that's been fighting reform at every turn. They have temporarily
succeeded in blocking federal legislation to crack down on the trade. As Pacelle wisely
notes- that in our pluralistic society there will always be groups of people who view
things differently. But what should bother all of us is that these lobbies are so powerful
and are able to stymie efforts to curb this trade, and yet this group probably reflects
only a small part of the population.
Pacelle also takes aim at our broken down system in Washington where the sometimes
bad and even reckless decision-making of our public officials reflects some of the
ideological divisions that exist within the country. We often have major disagreements
when it comes to our values, but its seems that special interests are gaming the system
with "narrow-minded corporations or lobby groups stymieing popular reforms and
thwarting the will of the people." Where have we heard this before?
And then imagine the argument of the snake sellers - that it is a matter of jobs and that a
crackdown on the trade will cost them jobs. Pacelle has a ready answer to this asinine
"They want to preserve their profits and their opportunity to exploit these animals at
the expense of so many other people. Is it possible to put a figure on the life of a child
killed by a pet snake that should never have been in this country--no mind in someone's
living room in Tampa, Fla.? And what's the cost of the death of hundreds of thousands
of snakes who suffer and die as a result of this trade? The Interior Department does have
an answer on some of the ecological costs. It says it's spending about $100 MILLION
THIS YEAR to combat invasive species such as the pythons in Florida."
And lastly some thoughts that have preoccupied me over the years. Where we do keep
snakes in zoos, I have always felt it terribly wrong for the zoo management to feed all
their reptilia with live prey. This must cause terrible suffering to the live prey. Years ago
I read that the London Zoo feeds theirs with freshly killed or frozen prey. I hope that it
has finally caught on here in the US zoos. If so, it would be another mark of compassion,
though sadly, I believe that individual snake owners probably do serve up live prey as
well. How they can watch in fascination this "cruel" meal-taking is beyond my scope of
understanding. They too should buy frozen prey instead.
Years ago I read about the Texas rattlesnake round-up. If memory serves me correctly,
these poor rattlers were drawn out of their lairs and then cruelly dispatched. I also
believe that those involved in this round-up found it immensely pleasurable to this. The
dead snakes were probably eaten and their skin used for shoes and purses. I hope this
has stopped. Killing a rattle snake who is ready to cause a serious bite is one thing, but
to have a rattle snake "festival" round-up is quite another.
Whether this bad practice is still going on in India, I do not know. But years ago I read
that some women in a part of India -out of gratitude to some of the Cobras for not hurting
their husbands, were able to sew their mouths shut and feed them milk through the slits.
Yes, it sounds improbably and maybe it is, but if true, most of these Cobras probably
starved to death as a result. Sometimes it seems we lack the good judgment God has
blest us with.