I have more than a few opinions in support of for-profit animal husbandry. On many occasions I have shared some of those opinions in the blog posts and articles I write. And as you might expect I receive a lot of comments. Most of them are emailed directly to me and most of them are decidedly supportive. But sometimes people come after me with varying levels of aggression and disdain for what I do. Some dislike my love of capitalism and attack me for charging more than $20 for any ball python I produce. They suggest that all ball pythons, even the incredibly rare and difficult to produce multi-gene morphs, should be available to everybody regardless of their ability to afford one. “Unto each according to their need“, is the message buried in their words. Intentionally twisting Karl Marx’s inane words I respond by saying, “No. Unto each according to their ability.” Other people have attacked me for my blatant hatred of animal extremists who seek to advance irrational legislation through misinformation and fear. I generally write these people off as being confused. They have to be. How else could they be in support of such silliness? And others have launched verbal assaults that label me an abusive animal exploiter who mistreats animals for personal gain. I suspect that most of the latter would also attack me for killing the mosquito that bites my ankle. The latest email insinuating that I was a person of low character for keeping and breeding snakes came a few days ago when I received a seemingly benevolent email from a someone named Casie. In her email she wrote:
|I have a question, why do you support breeding when there are already so many unwanted snakes? They are being released into the wild, given up to shelters, and not being properly cared for.
At the time of her email, Casymay’s included link to Petfinder.com, a national registry whose purpose is to re-home animals currently residing in shelters, contained a whopping 34 pythons, six of which were listed as being in Canada. Both amused and annoyed by her email, and without knowing anything else about the sender, I sent the following curt response:
|Why do humans continue to breed when there are so many unwanted children in the world?
Casey didn’t reply back. Should human procreation be put on hold until all the world’s orphaned kids get homes? Would Casey subscribe to that suggestion, too? In order to see if I could learn a little more about the person who disproved of my actions I decided to do a quick Google search for Casie’s email address. That search led me to another page where her profile suggests that she is 14 years old. This realization changed the paradigm with which I had viewed her question. Young people, many of whom have parents that have unknowingly let them watch too much thinly-veiled animal and environmental extremism in the form of Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego, Go, are filled with a legitimate yet often misguided desire to help animals. I am confident that this young woman’s intentions are pure; why would someone buy an animal when perfectly good one’s are available for adoption and, better still, why would someone intentionally make more when the same conditions remain true? Those seem like honest questions and legitimate concerns. And with many more orders of magnitude these questions are also portable to dogs and cats.
Nobody can argue that there are animals in this world that are abused, abandoned and irresponsibly cast aside. One good thing about them is that they get people’s attention. But that’s also a bad thing for the majority of animals that are on the other side. You know, the one’s that have caring and considerate owners who give their companions the very best in care. They provide excellent nutrition, a warm and comfortable place to sleep, companionship and prompt and regular medical care. But those animals are so incredibly uninteresting. Video of my dog sleeping happily next to me on the sofa isn’t going to help the Humane Society of the United States get any donations. It also makes for a very boring storyline for Diego and Dora. The evening news reporting on the secure, healthy and otherwise happy black throat monitor living over on Scenic Avenue isn’t very interesting either. You see, there’s no money and no story in the animals that are well cared for. No sound bite, nothing to tweet about and nothing to go viral on YouTube. Instead we dig for and find the 34 pythons that have lost their homes for who knows what reason and focus on them. Their plight is evidence enough for young Casie that a breeder like me is in the wrong; that I am the one who is perpetuating the abandonment of more pythons later down the line. Casie seems to be suggesting that the best solution is to bring captive breeding to a halt because a tiny minority have not received proper care. I do not share her opinion.
To rescue from a shelter or to buy from a breeder, that seems to be a recurring topic of discussion in the pet world. I have a friend whose opinions, perspectives and insights on this topic are often different than mine. She sees the world through the eyes of someone who works in a shelter and has repeatedly seen the tragic end-result of animals, mostly dogs and cats, that are dumped by incapable or otherwise irresponsible owners. She regularly sees, first-hand, how some people obtain and dispose of living things with callous whimsy. The animals dumped on the doorstep of her shelter are victims and the perpetrators simply drive away, hands washed of an inconvenience that has a heartbeat. Those experiences have steeled the resolve she has on her opinions and I know that there is nothing I can ever say that will change her mind. In a recent exchange of emails she and I had another friendly debate/discussion on buying dogs versus rescuing dogs. She was uninspired by my reasons for leaning toward a respectable dog breeder rather than a rescue for my next dog. One of her arguments was that “puppies suck”. She suggested that a one year old rescue would likely be house trained, past the chewing stage, able to be left alone, have its shots, etc. And you know what? She is 100% accurate in all of those things and when looked at from such a pragmatic point of view I might buy into her assertion. But using the same empirical logic I know another thing that sucks when young: human children. They pee and poop on themselves for the first two years or so. They vomit with some consistency and at incredibly inopportune times. They can’t talk and, even after months of interaction, can’t communicate their wants with any consistency. They make loud noises, don’t sleep through the night, cost a ton of money and disrupt virtually every other aspect of your existence. As a parent, the logical approach is to say screw it and avoid taking the ‘puppy route’ when expanding the family; we should all rescue 18-year old college students who have full scholarships at Virginia Tech. They won’t cost as much and, despite their tendency to abuse alcohol on the weekends, are almost certainly potty-trained. Someone else has already taught them the basics and their vaccinations are sure to be up-to-date.
I hope that sounds as silly to you as it does to me. Almost every parent on this planet knows that there is no way they would ever trade a day of their child’s youth. Despite sometimes being dirty, stinky, and inconvenient, they are incredibly rewarding. But it’s not the dirty diaper that makes it so wonderful; it’s the relationship that is formed in the process. And it’s that relationship that makes everything else so worth it and so wonderful. And for me, having the puppy equivalent of that relationship with the exact breed and provenance I want is my prerogative. The rescue animal may work for many people but it does not work for all people. I respect my neighbors decision to adopt a dog from the local shelter and do not cast derision upon him for doing so. So why does it happen in reverse? Why do animal rights advocates throw scornful glances my way for buying rather than adopting? There are many reasons, I suppose. But one of them is not as plain to see. There is a pervasive idea growing in our society that suggests that the less fortunate and otherwise downtrodden are not just worthy of the capacity of the more fortunate; they deserve it. Those who ‘have’ should be compelled to give what they have to those who do not. If you have more money you should pay more taxes. If you come in first place you should share your glory with those who came in 2nd, 3rd and, increasingly, even last. Nobody should be allowed to be better than anybody else because that’s not fair. You should work harder so you can give more to others. You shouldn’t get the puppy (or snake) you want when there are other animals who need your capacity. You should give up your desire to have your needs satisfied in order to satisfy the needs of someone (or something) less fortunate. “I really want a Weimaraner puppy,” you say. “But I can’t get what I want when there are mix-breed puppies at the shelter who need homes. Their need for a home is greater than my need for the breed that makes me happy.” Under this illusion, the so-called ‘greater good’ trumps any need of any individual. This notion, which is both a centerpiece and a rallying cry of the liberal mentality, is so perverted and wrong to me that I struggle to think that another person could arrive at the conclusion. But reason is not automatic and logic is not always appropriately applied. I do not subscribe to the notion that the “greater good” supersedes my needs as an individual. I believe that I need to take care of and be responsible for myself and my family. I do not live a life where the benefit of others comes before the benefit of my family. I know there are many who will disagree with me but I’m impervious. If you do disagree with me do you know what I am to you? I’m one less person with their hand out, asking you to freely give me the product of your efforts. And these ideas are far from new. The first time I read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand I was floored to see that she was writing about the same issues in the 1950’s.
Whether it’s dogs or snakes I support the rights of the breeder to create a ‘product’ that is demanded by the buyer. So long as there is a market for snakes I will produce and sell them. Moreso, I support the decision of each buyer (or adopter, as the case may be). If you want to buy an animal because it is the exact animal you want, do it and feel good about it. If adopting/rescuing makes you happy, rock on! But do not think negatively of someone who chooses differently than you.
So here is why I breed (and why I do not):
- I breed snakes because I find them beautiful and enigmatic.
- I breed snakes to financially benefit me and my family. I do not breed snakes in order to benefit others.
- I breed snakes because I believe in an individual’s ability to choose the animal, regardless of what it is or where it came from, that makes them happy.
- I breed because there is a demand for the animals I have the capacity to produce.
- I breed the animals I choose because they satisfy a need I have. People who see value in the animals I produce and who have a need, will buy one. Nobody is compelled to buy from me just as nobody is (and never should be) compelled to pick an animal from a shelter.
- I do not abstain from breeding because someone out there has abandoned their snake.
- I do not abstain from breeding because some people do not practice good husbandry. I breed because most people do. I do not tailor my actions to address the shortcomings of the lowest common denominator.
I do not encourage people to adopt simply because an animal has a need. I encourage people to buy or adopt in direct accordance with their own needs. If purchasing an animal meets your specific need, open your wallet (or purse). If adopting does the same, drive to the shelter. But do not give up on your needs simply because someone else appears to be more needy than you. And while it may make you feel good inside there is no absolution in sacrificing yourself to the want and needs of others.