Pets have unique care and handling requirements and should only be kept by those with the commitment to understand and meet their needs. Give your argument in support of or against this statement.


There is an on-going debate on whether snake charmers should continue in their profession. You can get some idea about the debate from the newspaper clipping (The Hindu, 16 June 2004) given below. Read it, discuss in pairs or groups, and write either for or against the profession of snake charmers.

Report comes in support of snake charmers

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, JUNE 15. Over 30 years after the introduction of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) that banned the catching of snakes in India, a small community of snake charmers continues to practise the trade catching over 400,000 snakes every year — which ultimately die — in defiance of the law.

A report based on new research by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), however, has strongly recommended that the traditional knowledge of the snake charmers and skills be now utilised for education and medicine by setting up sapera centres. This is mainly because the community has virtually no access to land, education or employment opportunities. They are dependent on snake charming to earn a livelihood. They trade around as vendors of traditional medicine, snake catchers and musicians. Ignorance about the law is quite common.

The report entitled ‘Biodiversity, Livelihoods and the Law: The Case of the Jogi-Nath Snake Charmers of India’ based on path-breaking research was formally released by the Inspector General of Forests, V.K. Bahuguna, along with a presentation by members of the sapera community in the Capital on Monday.

“Despite thirty years of the law being in existence, over 70 per cent of the Jogi-Naths are still dependent on snake charming to earn a livelihood. Ignorance about the law was quite common. None of them own land, even though they would like to,’’ said Bahar Dutt, who led this research. Notably, most of those practising the trade in the current generation are all under 35 years of age.

Trapping occurs throughout the year and during their travels, though this activity increases during the monsoons. According to the data, each family on an average collects at least seven snakes.

Most snakes were force-fed and snake husbandry methods and health were found to be poor. “The snake charmers community council imposes a heavy fine on a person if the snake dies in his custody as it is considered an extremely bad omen. As a result, the snakes are released when the charmers realise that their condition is deteriorating,’’ said Dutt. Their ambition to showcase the reptiles and earn money was not fulfilled, as they flouted four WPA provisions, for illegally possessing the animals, not feeding them properly, causing injuries by extracting teeth unscientifically and killing snakes for the valuable snake parts and bones. Their offence generally invites imprisonment for three to seven years and a fine up to Rs 25,000 in each case.

“On the positive side researchers found that the snake charmers possess a unique ability to handle venomous snakes with a tremendous knowledge of the different species and their behaviour. They are also called by local farmers to retrieve snakes, who would otherwise just kill them, from agricultural fields or human inhabited areas,’’ she said.


For the motion:

• need individual love and care

• not everyone can meet the handling requirements

• everyone is not sensitive enough to understand and provide the needs of the animals unconditional commitment is required

• busy and insensitive people cannot handle pets

• such people should avoid taking such responsibility

• will only hurt the innocent animal

Against the motion:

• children and pets are alike

• love develops once we are around our pets

• animals are sensitive to our love and care and will respond alike

• animals need attention

• experience teaches ways to nurture

• no special training required

(Pointers have been provided for students' reference. It is strongly recommended that students prepare the answer on their own.)


For the motion:

• way to earn their livelihood

• utilisation of traditional knowledge and skills for education and medicine

• sell traditional medicine

• entertain people

• fine imposed if snake dies – so try not to let it die

• unique ability to handle venomous snakes

Against the motion:

• WPA has banned it – illegal but ignore law

• snakes die or killed – for skin and bones

• most of snake charmers young – should take up different profession

• snakes – force fed, poor health and snake husbandry methods

• do not take care of snakes if condition deteriorates – fear of being fined

• hurt snake – teeth extracted

(Pointers have been provided for students' reference. It is strongly recommended that students prepare the answer on their own.)

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