Fighting for your rights
I recently listened to an interview featuring Phil Goss from USARK (United States Association of Reptile Keepers). It was interesting to hear about the challenges they face over there and how similar they are to the issues we have here in the UK. You can listen to the interview by visiting the Madison Area Herpetological Society Facebook page and scrolling to October 7. But here are a few points which struck a chord with me:
- Many legislative issues are caused by irresponsible keepers, such as the recent knee-jerk reaction to the escaped cobra in North Carolina.
- Others are caused by legislators proposing cut-and-paste legislation which has been implemented elsewhere.
- Legislation is often determined by who shows up during the early stages of the process. If the only people contributing to the debate are animal rights activists, the legislation will favour their agenda.
- USARK operates on a tiny budget which is a fraction of that available to the giant animal rights charities. Nevertheless, USARK is often successful.
- Individuals can make a difference by taking action – writing to politicians and legislators, sharing social media content, educating the ill-informed and supporting those who fight for our right to keep reptiles.
The third point in this list is particularly relevant in the UK. Currently, businesses and keepers in Scotland are facing potential legislation following a review of evidence by the government’s scientific advisors. These advisors don’t conduct research themselves, but instead review evidence which is already out there. Sadly, much of this is generated by a few animal rights extremists who peer-review each other’s research. Without any input from herp-trade specialists, the AR rhetoric will be all the scientists have to work with.
Thankfully, organisations such as REPTA are there to fight our corner during those vital early stages. Dave Perry explained the situation well with an analogy: “Influencing legislation is like steering an oil tanker into port,” he said. “If you leave it too late, it’s difficult to correct a bad trajectory.”
Stiletto snake’s narrow escape
News of a terrifying event leaked to social media last month – a stiletto snake had a close call with Chris Newman from the National Centre for Reptile Welfare. Chris had been called out to collect a snake that had arrived in the UK from Africa.
The snake had been misidentified as a harmless file snake, and this was what Chris had been told to expect when he arrived at the scene. However, the animal was actually a venomous stiletto snake, which promptly bit Chris’s hand.
Chris was essentially fine apart from some swelling and apparently significant levels of pain, yadda yadda. I’m sure he’ll live. More importantly, the snake is also doing well and suffering no ill effects from its run-in with the big hairy human. The animal is now safely in the hands of the venomous specialists at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
On a serious note, we’re all glad that Chris is okay.