Hybrids and Venomoids
And Other Controversial Topics
There exists in our hobby several subjects which have always generated heavy debate, and likely always will. People both in favor of and opposed to a given issue will argue and defend their position with equal vehemence.
The two topics that draw the most heated discussions are the practice of hybridization and the keeping of venomoids (venomous reptiles which have undergone surgery to remove the venom glands or otherwise render their bite harmless). People also carry strong opinions about the keeping of venomous, giant constrictors, feeding live vs. pre-killed, and other subjects.
Healthy debate is a good thing. Many new ideas are formed and occasionally new information is brought to light over the course of such exchanges. However, in many of these instances the participants are so strongly rooted in their opinions that the debate itself becomes a source of division among hobbyists, and this I believe is a detriment to the hobby as a whole.
This point was driven home to me recently after reading an anti-venomoid article which promoted an "us and them" mentality in which purist hot keepers were encouraged to completely seperate from the venomoid community. This is where I see such opinions becoming a damaging force to our hobby.
The keeping of reptiles has been under attack for several years. There is no reason to believe this will change anytime soon, instead I only see it escalating.
We face increasing restrictive legislation on a regular basis, and an unrelenting attack from the radical animal rights movement. There is a simple reason for this continued attack, we are easy targets. The reptile keeping community has never been organized. By nature, many reptile keepers are loners so to speak. They are often completely content to be absorbed in their own activities, and as such cannot mount an effective defense.
The only way to ensure the survival of our hobby over the long term is to stand together, and creating let alone promoting any sort of us and them mentality among hobbyists is completely counter productive to that goal.
Anyone who knows me knows I abhor hybrids. The very idea of breeding a cornsnake to a cal king, let alone a chondro to a jungle carpet, sickens me.
In the past I have voiced my opinion on this, often quite strongly, even to the point of refusing to do buisness with those who produce hybrids.
I have engaged in debates on forums which spanned months knowing full well that neither side was going to change their mind. The same can be said for many on either side of the venomoid debate. Unfortunately, many who participate in these debates and hold strong opinions, resort to using name calling, derogatory statements, and other unproductive means of asserting their opinion on others. Whether this is the nature of the person, or their inability to discuss a topic intelligently I do not know. I often suspect the latter. Either way, it does nothing to further their position, it only increases the division between an already divided community.
Taking our opinions to this level serves only to foster animosity and drive another wedge between people who otherwise share a common interest.
I have changed my perspective on these topics. I still loathe hybridization, but I also realize that there will always be those who participate in it. The same is true with venomoids. Whether you or I like it or not, both are here to stay, and there will always be a segment of the community who are interested in them.
It is important to look at the larger picture. Would I be willing to oppose hybrids to the degree that I risk losing the ability to keep the genetically pure snakes that I enjoy? Of course not. When the hobby is attacked, we all suffer equally, and everyone including keepers of hybrids and venomoids, as well as those who oppose them, are needed in the fight to preserve our rights. Reptile keepers will never be of one mind, there is simply too much variety in opinions, animal preferences, and ideas for that to happen.
All this can be overcome however. We must, as a community, learn to put aside our differences on the details of the hobby and focus on the important aspects that affect everybody.
We will always debate the topics that are important to us. I still partcipate in the occasional hybrid discussion myself. We cannot however, allow these differences in opinion to segment us to the degree that we cannot defend our rights to keep what we enjoy.
Often times certain groups, say colubrid keepers for instance, sit idly by as legislation is passed against snakes over 10 feet. Likewise non-venomous keepers don't get very upset at proposed legislation banning the keeping of venomous species. This mentality must end. You may not be personally affected by a proposed law, but at some point one will be brought forth that is aimed directly at your area of interest.
Our enemies use our division as a weapon against us. They are highly organized by comparison, and if each segment of the herping community is left to defend itself alone, they will all be eliminated one by one, and the end result will be the complete ban on the keeping of virtually all reptiles.
Keep your opinions, and enjoy a healthy debate about them when it suits you. Do not however allow those opinions to alienate yourself from another segment of the community. We are all needed in the fight for our ability to keep reptiles. I believe we can dislike, or even detest, certain areas of interest while maintaining our common bond of the love of reptiles.
We may not like it, but even if we disagree with how someone pursues their interest in the hobby, we are going to have to fight for their ability to do it.
In the end we wil all stand or fall together.