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RE: Venom Duct Removal - Surgery or Butchery?

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Posted by: richardwells at Thu May 5 18:10:54 2005  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by richardwells ]  

A school project eh...

Well, as for the biological implications of such a "removal" I must say that such surgery might not really be in the best interests of the snake's health. Outside of the initial and potentially ongoing pain associated with the removal of venom glands and ducts, the loss or reduction of venoms must have dietary implications due to their catalytic role in digestion alone.

The regenerative capacity of the structures and their products would also obviously influence toxicity, and I would caution that such toxins might actually become modified in the process and this could have unpredictable consequences should an envenomation later occur and require treatment. In other words and contrary to the usual belief, it does not necessarily follow that such surgery would make a venomous snake LESS dangerous.

At this point I readily admit that I am pretty much out of my depth here, and your questions would really be best answered by a physiologist experienced in such matters, but I can understand why you ask them. I am also asking those questions and others as a result of such activities here in Australia.

When I first heard about this "venomoid" business I immediately thought back to an infamous paper published in Australia back in 1963 where the venom glands of a Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) were "surgically" removed by the brilliant son, of a brilliant doctor. The brilliant son, however was not a doctor, but an amateur herpetologist of undoubted potential, but nevertheless not trained in physiology. Consequently, for over 40 years this paper has been periodically mentioned more for its perceived callousnesss than its originality. It could even be argued that it's ultimate effect actually sterilized the potential career of the herpetologist more effectively than it did the Notechis venom!

And this gets to the point of this current issue - what do we actually know about this activity?

In applying the 5 questions of good journalism to science we can really get to the guts of an issue - who, what, how, where and why. When one looks objectively at this "venomoid" business the little answers just leave big questions...and very serious questions at that.

So I must also confess that I am left more than a little cold at the "practice" as currently presented. From what I have observed in recent years, I must say that this attempt at detoxifying snakes by surgery is rather disturbing because it seems so amateurish and consequently so unnecessary.

In case some might want to consider using such information in a more practical sense than simply for a school project, I would hope you consider the following: Unless carried out by an appropriately trained veterinary surgical team, such operations run the risk of being little more than amateurish butchery. I believe that most untrained people who are involved in such surgical barbarity are dealing with physical and biological issues that are beyond their comprehension.

But even when undertaken professionally, one must ask...for what good purpose is this done? It would certainly not be without serious risks to the ultimate well-being of the snakes concerned.

Such surgical activities have recently been carried out here in Australia as well, and there have been justified calls for the reptile keeper responsible to be arrested on animal cruelty charges.

This particular individual here in Australia thinks playing doctor in a pretend surgery for chopping up snakes is science. Well, it is not. It is simply animal cruelty of the most base kind, hiding behind a transparant mask of pseudo-science, and practiced by the intellectually challenged.

Richard Wells


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