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Why Is It OK To Starve A Snake?

January 9, 2012

I was recently browsing Craigslist and this question caught my eye as a heading. People there and elsewhere say it’s “cruel” to take mice, rats, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters and other small animals and feed to snakes. Snake owners don’t have an easy to dispense kibble to give their pets – they require something to directly die.

Many find this objectionable, and perhaps that’s what is behind the people wanting to ban snakes. It can’t be on the number of people that pythons have killed, for statistically snakes kill fewer people in 20 years than horses do in one, but we don’t ban horses!

Many people are afraid of snakes, which is understandable. Many are also afraid of mice and rats. Many don’t want any of them in their homes. The fact is, however, the lowly snake in all his forms is a valuable resource for control of pests that would quickly overwhelm us all.

Some pet stores refuse to sell feeder mice, but sell reptiles. So that indicates you can buy a snake but not feed it – and it can take a year for a snake to starve to death. So how is that not cruelty?!

Snakes are a low maintenance pet. They aren’t cuddly like puppies and don’t do tricks. They can be very picky – for example when we lost the litter of bunnies a while ago in a cold snap, think the snake would eat one? Not a chance! The food he recognizes is white mice – so if you’re not a white mouse you’re pretty safe!

In the wild, snakes keep the rodent population from exploding. There are thousands of rats and mice looking for free meals on farms and ranches and somewhere out there are also snakes. They require food, shelter, water – just like other animals.

Many farms don’t discourage non toxic snakes like bull snakes or black snakes as a means of controlling the rodent population. The damage and contamination from rodents harms human health as well as being an unwelcome presence around the barns, contaminating livestock feed.

When kept as pets, snakes still need to eat. The people who bemoan feeding the snakes don’t have an answer as to what they should eat. Like us, they survive by consuming other animals.

So if it’s wrong for a snake to eat their natural food – often rodents – why is it ‘right’ for us to dine on other animals? And if it’s seen as wrong for snakes and a practice to be banned, that affects your food supply. If it’s ok to starve a snake it’s ok to starve people, and many comment sections are littered with how people are the blight of the earth. If you are vegan or vegetarian, billions of rodents will wipe out and contaminate your food supply too if unchecked.

Balance is good! In food and in nature.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Melro permalink
    November 14, 2012 6:09 PM

    The snake ban is because people do not realize taking care to give a snake a proper home is time consuming. Throwing one in a tank with a light to live out its life is not a normal environment. That in itself is cruel. Many people do not realize how large the snakes will get either and when they do, they release the snake into the wild. It’s happened so often that there is a serious problem in the everglades and other warm climate states. Snakes are not pets, and never should have been, a lesson learned too late. The only interesting about a snake is to watch it devour a live warm blooded mammal. That is disgusting because that mouse, rabbit, gerbil does indeed feel pain. I know. I rescued a small meadow vole before its eyes were open. The vole had an abcess from a wound. When I’d clean it, and apply antibiotics, that little vole would squeal. When I was younger I also had a white mouse as a pet that would sit on my shoulder and snuggle by my ear. The problem I have with selling live mice as food for a snake is that the food is what used to be sold as a pet. I remember when snakes became popular. The mice sold as food were the size of cotton balls and were genetically deformed. They didn’t walk well, but more or less just vibrated. Now what I see for food is my fat pet mouse.

    So snake owners are not only cruel to the food source for their pet, they are also cruel to the snake. In your wildest imagination no snake lives in a tank, with a light, and a lid.

    • November 14, 2012 8:20 PM

      It doesn’t matter how large a snake is, they still need to eat! So in order to deny them their natural food, it’s better to starve them? And for those in the wild, it seems they shouldn’t eat either? Let’s disrupt the ecosystem by removing snakes entirely?! The only reason it’s a problem in the everglades is people don’t know what python meat runs – at a few thousand dollars per snake it adds up! Our snakes are quite content, regular meals they don’t have to search for. Prekilled so there is no torture of the rodent. Not everyone can have a dog or cat, but there are some that can have snakes. Not all snakes are the large pythons either, as seems to be cast. Agree to disagree. 🙂

  2. John permalink
    January 23, 2014 11:31 PM

    First of all, snakes do not roam and hunt. They are ambush preditors that move to thermoregulate and find cover or ambush spots. All of these things can be easily supplied for pet snakes. In fact, a vivarium too large will make a snake insecure and it can refuse to eat. People who suggest that keeping a snake in an enclosure is wrong simply do not know about snakes. Snakes spend most of their lives hidden under objects. This is why we lift ground cover to find them on herpetological surveys.

    The burmese python population in the Everglades became established when a facility housing 1000’s was distroyed by hurricane Andrew. Released snakes are very unlikely to become establised as they are prey to many different animals and the likelihood of them finding a mate is astronomical.

    As far as animals feeling pain, all animals feel pain including snakes. In fact, damaged plants seem to send off chemical signals that neighboring plants can pick up on causing them to release chemical signals. Does this mean that everyone should quit eating and starve? News flash, that wouldn’t end suffering.

    If you would like to look at a real ecological disaster, look at feral cats. In fact, housecats are responsible for the extinction of many species worldwide.

    • January 24, 2014 9:42 AM

      Thanks for stopping by and your accurate assessment. The question was posed regarding those who think mice, rats, rabbits etc shouldn’t be fed to snakes. Some say it’s cruel. So if a snake isn’t fed, they are less important than mice/rats etc? I don’t think so. And I don’t think we’ll run short of mice or rats any time soon.

  3. January 10, 2017 5:59 AM

    I agree with the above commenters, snakes, at least the commonly kept species, thrive in captivity. Otherwise they wouldn’t be so easily bred and available. I don’t find a rational reason why snakes shouldn’t be given small mammals to eat. The fact that dogs and cats eat processed food doesn’t mean that it didn’t come from other animals as well. Mostly these people are either too afraid of snakes, or try to push a vegan animal rights agenda.
    Anyone saying that people keep snakes just to see small mammals suffer is ignorant. The fact is that most people provide already dead and frozen prey to their snakes, and anyone feeding live prey doesn’t do it of morbid enjoyment. And if someone was so intent on wanting to watch the suffering of animals, he could do the same with a cat or dog, that is, he could give them small animals to kill and watch. So no need for a snake necessarily.
    ps. Not all snakes are so picky. What snake do you have? Ball pythons are quite picky, but kingsnakes for example can eat everything, be it mice, rats, young rabbits, lizards etc. They are called garbage disposal machines for snakes for good reason. If you have a big collection and some snakes don’t feed a particular day, you just toss the prey to the kingsnake. Quite convenient if you feed frozen. If you feed live, you can keep it to feed later.

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