I can’t believe events like this still go on; in Sweetwater, Texas, rattlesnakes are gassed out of their dens to provide public entertainment (often in the form of food and belts) to about 30,000 people annually. While some reports claim that the event is an economic boon that brings in millions to the community, ecologists are rightly rattled by the events that go on every year. According to this report, this year 4,300 pounds of rattlesnakes were brought in, and this is what many of the snakes have to look forward to;
[Due to complaints from the photo was used illegally I have removed it, but you can still find it at the link below, along with others]
The image was taken from this page, providing a look at some of what goes on at the event. As if the actual event wasn’t unethical in of itself (snakes being beheaded, skinned, and roasted), the methods by which they’re caught is equally shocking. Gas fumes are pumped into snake dens (home to insects, small mammals, and other wildlife) to drive the snakes out, which typically end up as souvenirs at the show (I didn’t see anything about “catch and release”). According to this PlanetArk article (which I originally viewed on Yahoo!News), some justify the atrocities by claiming that it keeps livestock safe from the dangerous snakes, and although I haven’t seen any numbers, I wouldn’t imagine that rates of mortality by snakebite are very high among livestock. Such is the same with wolves; if there is a natural predator in the area dim-witted humans want to eliminate it wholesale, and if they can have some fun while doing it they will surely find a way.
Many locals say that ecologists blow the issue out of proportion, but as I have often asked, why is it that so few people consider the ethics of the situation? These snakes surely feel pain, probably even fear (they’re not rattling their tails because they’re pleased to see you), and what occurs at the roundup is certainly inhumane. They’re just snakes, right? They’re a scourge on the earth, the very beast that tempted Adam and Eve and cause the Fall. Indeed, (I don’t know how many Texans are creationists, but I’d guess the numbers are relatively high) perhaps this is some sort of latent revenge for being evicted from Paradise, and effort to play out some Biblical drama. (Note: I made the last statement half-joking; I’m not convinced that all these people hate snakes because of Biblical events). If you want a closer look at these kinds of events yourself and can’t venture to Texas, the National Geographic documentary King Rattler shows a herpetologist visiting such a show.