Photo via: Gregory
Upwards of 5,000 snake charmers with their snakes in hand, held a protest last Tuesday in Calcutta. Their purpose was to demand the right to once again have the legal opportunity to charm live cobras and other snakes for entertainment purposes. Such shows have been banned in India since 1991. According to the Snake Charmers Federation in India, there are still 800,000 professional charmers living and entertaining in India, many of them working in tourist sites and small villages illegally.Snake Charming
The way snake charming works, is it relies on the fact that snakes are deaf. The waves from certain sounds, such as through certain instruments, are identified as a possible threat, which causes the snakes to then move in self-defense to the vibration. This movement can often almost appear as if the snake is actually dancing to the music.
These charmers claim that the tradition and technique of snake charming has been passed down from Father to Son for centuries and by depriving them of this "right", they are in fact denying India of a landscape which has become a way of life for many families. Some say the tradition of snake charming goes back almost 1,000 years. These charmers were hired by villages to rid them of their excess dangerous snakes. They would round them up, then use them in tourist shows in order to make a living for their families.
Wildlife Protection Act of 1972
This is where the problem begins, as these charmers usually remove the snakes fangs as a means of safety for themselves and others around during the shows. What happens next is the charmers keep the snake for a year or more to perform in their shows before returning it to the wild. Unfortunately without their fangs the snakes have no means to feed themselves and eventually die of starvation.
So in comes the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which denies the charmers the right to continue this tradition and keep such animals as pets for commercial use. However, the charmers claim that part of their tradition is also the collection of the snakes venom, which aids in the formulation of life saving drugs. If the government is unwilling to lift the ban, they are asking that a new alternative employment be found for their unique talent, such as collecting snake skins and venom for established "snake farms".
Should Tradition have any Pull over the Livelihood of these Charmer's
The Charmers Association claims that nearly 100,000 families are currently suffering intense economic hardship due to not finding reliable work since the act was passed. It is highly unlikely that these protests will be enough to overturn a ban which has been reinforced for over thirty years, so what do you think is a viable answer for these charmers?
Should tradition have any pull on the decision to create new snake related farms for these people to make a sustainable living at, or would this be no better than the life of a commercially-entertaining exotic animal in the first place?
Forbes.com: Snake charmers hold street protest in India
Source credit: Tipster Fred Gordon