Each year in Sweetwater, Texas, numerous rattlesnakes are killed in front of customers who have to pay for the experience. Furthermore, the thirty thousand visitors are also invited to take part in the slaughter. While the organizers insist the reason is curbing overpopulation and thus protecting livestock and humans, others are wondering whether this is actually a pointless massacre.
The “World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup” is organized by the Junior Chamber of Commerce of Sweetwater, otherwise known as the Jaycees. During this roundup, the participants and viewers can watch numerous rattlesnakes crammed in a pit. The handlers then proceed to behead the animals, and the fans can join them later on in skinning them. Additionally, those who are willing can make hand prints with snake blood on a wall.
As the Center for Disease Control has pointed out, each year about seven thousand people are bitten by snakes that are venomous in the U.S. These include coral snakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes. Furthermore, each year five people die after being bitten. In this perspective, the Jaycees have explained that their event is meant to stop the overpopulation of rattlesnakes, and also save both livestock and human lives.
However, there are others who believe this slaughter is unnecessary. Auburn University reptiles and amphibian biologist David Steen has explained that rattlesnakes usually bite those who interfere with them, like drunk people or professional exterminators. The argument is perfectly believable since rattlesnakes prefer to keep to their territories and not interact with species they cannot possibly eat. Steen believes humans and snakes can co-exist peacefully if we were to leave them alone and respect their space.
Furthermore, no cattle deaths caused by rattlesnake bites were recorded last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture. And thus we arrive at the true motive of the Texas Rattlesnake Roundup: profit.
Only last year the event brought no less than $8.4 million to the town. The local economy flourished as over one hundred jobs were created specifically for the event. On a brighter note, it also appears that the money is put to good use, both for the town and for the families that live there. Additionally, the meat of the snakes is eaten, and the venom and skin are sold. The Jaycees have also declared they do not influence the populations of rattlesnakes at all.
The conservationists are not convinced though and believe the roundup has led to the diamond rattlesnake being proposed for the Endangered Species Act.
The best solution for both parts would be that Sweetwater follows the example of other cities such as Claxton in Georgia, where during the roundup handlers teach the visitors about safety and many animals are put on display. However, none of them are killed. Whether the Jaycees will agree to such a compromise remains to be seen.
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