How Should We View Venomoids?

I oppose venomoid surgery because of humane concerns for the animals. I am also concerned when I see other people condemning venomoids for what I think may be the wrong reasons. I certainly agree with many of the views presented here by Hank Molt, but the underlying message that venomoid snakes are worthless and not deserving of our consideration is not one I can understand or support.

Making venomoids is basically about human ego. Opposing the existence of venomoids and saying that they are nothing but garbage and therefore unworthy to live is also about human ego. To some people, once a snake has been voided, it loses its "cool factor" and is no longer socially acceptable. That's still human ego talking, and it's exactly the same kind of thinking that leads to making snakes venomoid in the first place.

Snakes are not penis substitutes or ego buffers; they are living, feeling creatures worthy of respect and care. Animals suffer when they are treated like toys or decorations with no consideration for their needs. They suffer worse when they are treated like broken toys and discarded with contempt because they no longer meet a human ideal of perfection.

Hank Molt gives this account of a venomoid mamba being sold at a reptile show:

"Often the black stitch threads are still dangling from the disfigured head. Pretty impressive. And yes, there are these road kill guys who purchase this trash. Can you imagine spending $400. for a skinny 30 inch Green Mamba with threads protruding from its caved-in head. It just looks like some worn out Green Vine Snake. And, most important, it is really no longer a real Mamba: it is just a half-snake that has had some grotesque procedures done on it and then used to procure money from ignorant collectors better off not in herpetoculture."

This is not a "half-snake". This hurt, suffering creature is not "trash". It is a badly abused animal that needs to be confiscated from the abuser and given immediate veterinary care. It deserves compassion, not contempt. Obviously the abuser cannot be rewarded financially for the harm he has done, or he will only be motivated to do it again. But if it is at all possible to make him surrender the snake either voluntarily or under legal compulsion, the animal deserves that chance. Dealers should be warned that if they bring obviously sick, abused snakes to a show, these animals will be confiscated so that they can be given proper care. If necessary, Fish and Wildlife officers or animal control officers and a show veterinarian should be enlisted to help enforce these anti-cruelty regulations. No reptile show benefits when dealers are allowed to put abused, dying snakes on the table.

For me, working with venomous snakes is largely about helping and healing the patient in need, easing pain and saving function, and giving merciful euthanasia when quality of life cannot be preserved. These are the ethics of veterinary medicine, which I wholeheartedly believe in. Venomoid surgeries are absolutely contrary to these ethics and I oppose them for that specific reason.

But let's please remember that a venomoid snake is not a thing to be held in contempt, but in compassion as a victim of human greed. They are no different from a rattlesnake with a fused backbone and ugly scars that survived an attack with a shovel, or a Gaboon viper imported with festering noose wounds from a botched capture. Yes, these animals are cripples. No, they aren't ever going to be the shining prizes of anyone's collection. But they are alive, and they feel and suffer, and they deserve our compassion and care. It is the abusers who deserve our condemnation, not the abuse victims.

Yes, a venomoid mamba is still a real mamba. Saying otherwise is a lot like branding a rape victim as a whore, or suggesting that a Vietnam vet who lost a leg and an arm should have his pension cut because he is only a half-person. It's wrong to blame the victims, and even worse to let them keep suffering because you think that the abuse that was done to them makes them no longer worthy of any care or compassion.

I would like to see the abuses of the venomoid trade ended, and I would also like to see the victims of that abuse acknowledged as they deserve to be - as animals that have been badly hurt by human greed. No more, and no less. Please help them if you have the chance. They really do deserve it.


Useful Links

Read the Venomoid FAQ here.
Please consider signing the Venomoid Petition to help prevent this kind of animal cruelty.

Read what Hank Molt has to say about a venomoid atrocity at Hamburg.
A veterinary perspective on venomoids
Anesthesia, Chemical Restraint and Pain Management in Venomous Snakes
Perception of pain in reptiles
Bibliography of Pain and Analgesia in Herps
Reptile and Amphibian Pain and Analgesia

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