The Ethics of Culling Snakes

There is a very big ethical difference between feeding an animal that was produced as a food product versus euthanizing perfectly healthy snakes to avoid anyone getting their hands on a world first morph. Not only that, but it’s not disparaging to ask someone to clarify their own wording that made it seem as if they did something untoward. The only emotionally driven problem here is you getting all defensive on someone’s behalf when all anyone wants here is true clarification of the issue. I’ve no problem with him as a breeder if he comes out and says this was just poorly worded to allow for misinterpretation. People can be respected and well thought of and still do unethical things behind closed doors.


Already told you guys I was done, not engaging in this thread any further.


I don’t see any personal digs here at all, only a reasonable request for clarification on a practice multiple people here are concerned about. In this hobby we all have a responsibility to care for the well-being of the animals in our care and to also push the hobby forward by challenging potentially unethical practices. We can’t improve the hobby at all without doing that. As has been said, Corey can clear this up very quickly by clarifying what he meant, but based on the original wording there’s a justified level of concern and there’s nothing wrong with that. If he’s able to explain what he meant, I look forward to hearing it, but I personally will not financially or with recognition support a breeder who euthanizes perfectly healthy animals for the sake of being the only owner of a genetic project. If Corey didn’t do that, fantastic, and I would love for him to tell us - and if he did, we all need to take a look at the care standards we’re willing to accept in this hobby. Being a well-respected member of the breeding community doesn’t protect one from criticism, nor should it.


Not sure about the logic against decapitation yet recommending blunt force trauma. My vet recommends decapitation and I’m going to go with his recommendation. Which seems the most logical to me but I’ve found CO2 done correctly will incapacitate a snake rather quickly. Key is to apply enough CO2 to ensure all oxygen is forced out of the chamber through the top since it’s denser then oxygen. Once applied I’ll give it 20 minutes then check and if needed apply more CO2. Eventually once the animal is apparently passed then I’ll seal the bag it was placed inside within the chamber slowly squeezing all air out and knot it up. I’ll check every 20 minutes but have not had any sign of life after the initial application. Key is introducing enough CO2 to displace all oxygen. This is key with dispatching rabbits as well who will hold their breath but all living organism can’t hold indefinitely

So, just commenting real quick on thr Corey situation. Im not going to speak for or against such practices, I am only going to say that culling to prevent an overabundance of an animal while selectively breeding for traits is and has been extremely common in the pet industry as a whole. (Look at people using normals as feeders when producing morphs so they dont need to have them sitting around waiting for a buyer.)

I believe it is a little different to do it to a morph that does not have an overabundance for the sake of keeping hold of the project, but at its heart seems the same overall to me as a life is a life regardless of whether its a normal or rare. I wont say whether either practice is good or bad, but morally i dont see them as significantly different, so demonizing one while recommending the other (some breeders recommend having a kingsnake or two for this reason so the bodies dont go to waste) seems a bit much.

All of that said, i think its more than reasonable to speak with your wallets on the issue and choose not to support practices you find morally wrong. But at least try to look at things from a rational perspective rather than emotional. If you still feel it is abhorrent, you are free to not support the practice. Myself, i dont like it, so ill find homes for the snakes i produce whether i take a loss or not, but thats my own thing.


I think killing animals as distasteful as it may seem, unfortunately is a reality.

Us buyers also bear part of that responsibility ourselves, after all breeders wouldn’t be in business without buyers wanting the animals.

All living things are born and all living things die, sadly not always in peaceful ways. Because we are human we have a unique compassion that is juxtaposed to nature, which can be incredibly cruel.

All animals including us have to eat so feeding a defective etc. To another animal is something perhaps better as it at least goes to nourish another. Of course we are all going to be torn, that is human nature.

When someone poisoned my cat of 12 years, who helped me through many difficult years, i felt really gutted about having to put her down. I was so guilty because i felt i betrayed my best friend and i couldn’t even be there for the euthanasia, it hurt my soul to my core.

In a perfect world no animal would be needlessly killed, no animal would suffer and no animal would go unwanted but thats not our reality, so we at least have a duty to see to it that they suffer as little as possible.

Eventually i will likely have to feed unwanted baby scorpions to my adults if i get into breeding and it’s not a good death but i also won’t have the ability to keep them all alive and healthy.

We all have thoughts and feelings and what may be uncomfortable for us may not be so for others.


Your vet doesn’t know how reptile brains work it seems. If you simply decapitate the snake (which leaves the brain intact, unlike crushing the skull) then the brain will stay alive for a while. Because it requires so little oxygen to stay alive. Meaning the snake feels all the pain and panic you can imagine comes with it. CO2 takes a while to completely kill a snake in most cases due to how little oxygen snakes need to stay alive. Watch the video I posted earlier in this thread for a better explanation on which method is best.


I think it’s important to note that disagreeing with the ethical or unethical nature of something does not inherently make it an emotional response, nor does an emotional response make a position less valid. In breeding animals there will always be necessities to cull deformed animals or projects that are unsuccessful, and that is a regrettable yet unavoidable part of breeding. However, part of responsible breeding, at least in my opinion, is to avoid unnecessary death. This can be done in a lot of ways - not breeding problem genes with higher deformity rates, not breeding unwanted genes, not breeding unhealthy animals, etc. Finding wholesale or alternative homes for an excess of animals from a gene project can absolutely be considered under that umbrella, as culling healthy animals for the purpose of being the sole proprietor of a genetic project does not, to me, classify as unavoidable or necessary. Once again, we have many reasons to demand better from the hobby, not the least of which are the constant legislative battles on our right to even own these animals, much less breed them. We have a responsibility to our animals and to the greater community to use humane, responsible breeding practices and from a logical perspective, when we already face so many threats from external forces, is it wise to excuse instances of less than ideal practices? I don’t think so.

Again, there have been no insults or accusations - simply asking for clarification, which I would still genuinely like to have. Many things are commonplace in this hobby (and elsewhere in the world) that probably should not be. It is a perfectly rational approach to raise standards and expect better of ourselves and others in the hobby. That is the only way we improve. Some may do it with their money, some may do it in exemplary action, some may do it with words and advocacy. To each their own.


I stumbled onto this topic from a different thread here a while back when I ran a search on breeding & a poster offered a nice scientific article by one of the most accomplished & respected herpetologists in academia that I’ll repost here. From the abstract (the full text is available):

“[C]ooling followed by freezing can offer a humane method of killing cane toads, and may be widely applicable to other ectotherms (especially, small species that are rarely active at low body temperatures). More generally, many animal-ethics regulations have little empirical basis, and research on this topic is urgently required in order to reduce animal suffering.” Is “cooling then freezing” a humane way to kill amphibians and reptiles? | Biology Open | The Company of Biologists


My guess is he considered the animals culled unsuccessful parts of his project that didnt warent being kept in the project. So this would bring up the question of what each individuals definition of “successful” is. It appears he was attempting mixes with different morphs to see how they worked together and I have to imagine some paths resulted in snakes that did not go the direction he wanted for his project, and thus were culled as a dead end path.

The arguement here would be that he doesnt know which genes will produce an undesirable trait until he had tried it. The use of hets for breeding stock when the risk of normals is very high, breeders know what they are doing before playing the odds, and all of those animals go somewhere, and if i had to guess, a good amount make it into the stomach of another snake, though obviously many do find their way into the market and wholesale scene.

Depends on if the outlook. I understand where you are coming from, and personally, i dont believe i could bring myself to do it, but rationally it is good business sense, and again, not something restricted to the reptile hobby, or to this specific breeder. While i dont like the practice, i have to be realistic and understand that it is in fact a regularly occurring thing. I will say however, it is much less transparent in the domestic pet industry, but just look at the number of domestic animals put down per year, and you will see as much as people claim the high ground, not many take responsibility for the animals the produce.

Very fair, i have seen no insults only speak of morality of the issue. And wanting clarification so you can decide whether you want to support the breeder is more than fair. I only speak up because i dont believe an individual should be the subject of a witch hunt, just because they were one of the few to be open about how they created and refined the gene (they are certainly not the first or only person to do so if they culled as they said.)

Not saying you or anyone is starting a witch hunt, just that it has a tendency to happen in eco chambers when there arent enough devils advocates haha.

I dont think an emotional response makes something inherently wrong, only that there is usually a sliding scale and the more emotional an issue, the less logic and rationalism is used. So its always good to remind people to take a step back to calm down and then go over the issue again to see if they still feel the same. And if they do, no issue, everyone has a right to believe and feel as they do :).


Right. I understand where you’re coming from and this right here is the issue. It may be a regularly occurring thing, but that, to me, indicates that we need to take a larger look at the hobby and ethics practices as a whole, and what we are willing to accept in terms of ethical standards. Just because something is regularly occurring doesn’t mean that it can’t or shouldn’t change. If this is the case and Corey is just one of many breeders who do this, there needs to be a much larger conversation.


I agree, even if it is true I would much rather that Corey owns up to it and admits it rather than just hiding it. But I would like to know the breeders that do this, because I don’t want to support businesses that rely on culling offspring to save money.


And that there is the can of worms that people dont like to look at, and the problem with the pet industry as a whole. Because it isnt just the snake hobby.

A good example is breeding fancy rats to sell as pets, many that dont come out “pet quality” become feed. They arent any less alive than the pretty ones, but because people consider mice and rats feeders, not many actually care about this (except likely those keeping rats as pets would be appalled).

But when the pet industry wants new and fancy animals, it creates excess, and excess gets disposed of. Some use wholesalers and let fate decide what happens to the animals (not everyone is good at care, some animals will find good homes and happy lives, others will face neglect and die from inexperience. Others use humane culling and turn them into feeders, but by doing so also remove all chance of a healthy life with a caring owner.

Many people forget that eugenics is a massive part of the pet industry as a whole. Not just the reptile hobby, not just the ones who admit to it, but its probably one of the largest ignored facts that exists in the pet trade.

All of that being said, i fully agree with everyone who wants to take their money elsewhere, i just hope it doesnt go to somebody else who does the same practice, but is dishonest about it. If i had to choose between the two, id go with the person who was upfront about the practice and openly showed their methods of how they humanely euthanize the animals and how they treat the bodies. But if i had the 3rd option of somebody i knew for sure didnt do this, i would definitely choose that one.


My vet has been doing this longer than the person who created that video has been keeping reptiles or herself. Plus I’ve been at this since the late 80s and handled more deaths then I’d like to have experienced. I’ll go with my vet who handles zoos and one of the few exotic specialist in my area.

I speak from experience. Plus I’m not crushing skulls and haven’t been motivated to grab the clever. CO2 I’ve used and will continue using it. Like I said. I speak from experience.

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This has become two separate conversations. I still have nothing further to say on the ethics aspect, but the widely accepted American Veterinary Medical Association methods of culling are not hard to find. I suggest using the find function and searching for the word ‘reptile’ to spare yourself a lot of reading.

When they say freezing, they mean liquid nitrogen not your freezer. CO2 is not a very effective method and should be followed with a secondary method. CO2 may not work at all on neonates or certain species as anesthesia, which means they suffocate. Decapitation followed by pithing (crushing the skull) is considered the only humane mechanical method aside from a firearm or captive bolt gun.


Fair. While it all has to do with culling snakes, it has definitely transitioned to 2 main issues. Ethics and method. The OP for this thread was clearly intending it to be a topic on the proper method, so it would definitely be appropriate to split alot of this discussion into an ethics thread so as not to bury useful information.

The discussion was moved here by one of the staff, off of the topic of a new gene request.

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Nathan is correct, the discussion was already moved to this thread by a staff member (I’m not sure who). I originally asked Corey for clarification on whether or not he was culling healthy animals on his Eramosa new gene proposal post. I am still waiting for clarification from him, either in this thread or the original Eramosa one.

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I’ve thought about this just a bit, not a whole lot - but enough to bounce this idea… There’s a major problem of abusing stats post hoc to get the almighty p-value for publication in the sciences, particularly in the human behavioral sciences. Don’t worry what this means exactly, other than ethically concerned scientists have voluntarily joined a co-op of sorts where they register their experimental design & planned statistical analyses BEFORE they even perform experiments.

I see no reason why this would not be feasible for breeders as well, to report pre-mating design, actual clutch size, survivability, feeding, growth and accountability of all resulting offspring. Open access to these registration records would avail buyers to assurance of ethical standards they would like to have and I don’t see it as much different than say, preferring to buy only free ranged chicken eggs or what not. Surely, there are enough true reptile lovers and breeders for this to happen and be endorsed by some standardized certification, no?


I would love to do something similar to this. In my opinion, one of the absolute worst things in this hobby is the secretive approach some people take - whether it’s staying quiet about noticed gene issues, pairings where some/all hatchlings don’t survive, deformities, etc. I have always and will always feel more comfortable buying from someone who provides that kind of information transparently. In the original case of what prompted my original question, I actually went to Corey’s website to see if I could track down how many Eramosa clutches he has had in an effort to give him the benefit of the doubt on the number of animals that may or may not have been culled. On his website, any pairing including the Eramosa gene is marked out as classified, and there were no pictures, pairing info, or hatchling info available.

We can definitely do better in terms of putting standards of ethics out there. I’m still quite disappointed that MM decided against badges/certifications of disease testing for collections. Knowing who tests and who doesn’t benefits everyone, and same here - buyers have a right to make an informed decision about who to buy from based on the ethical standards they align with. Other people may be comfortable with healthy animals being culled to keep a new gene private, but I am not and I think that if that is genuinely what happened here (still waiting for confirmation or clarification from Corey) there need to be some serious conversations about the ethical standards the reptile hobby as a whole is willing to accept/tolerate/excuse. Some tracking system like what you mentioned would go a long way toward at least opening a discussion about breeding practices that people prefer to just not mention, like, for instance, the euth of perfectly healthy animals - or other things like the true percentage of deformities from certain gene pairings.