The images in the following program are highly sensitive and may be as disturbing to viewers as they were to us. However, we have to show the truth about cruelty to animals, praying that you will help to stop it.

This is Stop Animal Cruelty on Supreme Master Television. This week we examine the brutal treatment and killing of snakes by the exotic skin, pet and entertainment industries. Snakes may be one of the most misunderstood and mistreated species on Earth. Some people have a fear of snakes, but it simply isn’t warranted. Snakes are very shy and always prefer to avoid contact with humans.

Some people try to kill snakes because they think they are dangerous and aggressive. But neither of these perceptions is true. According to the State of Texas Department of Health in the US, the chances of death from a venomous snakebite are considerably less than dying from a lightning strike.

And actually, snakes aren’t aggressive. If you stand on him, or if you’re trying to catch him, he will retaliate. But they’re not aggressive. And I think that’s quite important to remember.

Every year millions of these innocent beings are slain. More than 450 species of snakes are currently on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

It is often mistakenly believed that snake skin products are made from molted skin; that is, skin naturally shed by snakes as they grow. However this is untrue as such skin is too fragile and dull in color to be used to make items. In recent years an upward trend in the production of snake skin handbags, shoes and clothing has occurred, with the python being used more and more often for this purpose.

The reticulated python, a native of Southeast Asia, is the longest snake in the world, reaching up to nine meters in length. The number of python deaths worldwide due to the leather trade is difficult to estimate, but is likely in the millions. Between 1995 and 1998, 4.5 million pythons, both alive and skinned, were exported from one Southeast Asian country alone. Other commonly exploited snakes include salt and fresh water snakes, cobras, rat snakes, kraits and anacondas.

To feed this senseless industry, countless snakes are captured in the wild. For a large snake such as a python, a hose may be inserted into her mouth, and her soft and tender body pumped full of water to loosen her skin. The snake’s head is then impaled on a nail or a meat hook. Her belly is slit open from throat to tail with a sharp knife, and her skin is ripped off her body while she is still fully conscious and writhing in extreme pain.

The skinned snake is then thrown by the wayside, where she dies a slow, excruciating death of shock and dehydration. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals founder Ingrid Newkirk's book “Making Kind Choices” some of these snakes may be alive even three days after skinning. Other snakes are viciously trapped for the pet industry. Wildlife trafficking in endangered reptiles is big business globally and this deleterious activity only serves to diminish the numbers of threatened snakes in their native habitats.

Savage methods used to capture snakes include stunning them, grabbing them with sharp hooks, and dousing snake burrows with gasoline or chemicals so that the snakes quickly exit their homes, sometimes incurring lethal injuries in the process. They are then transported long distances inside small, filthy crates and many of them die from sicknesses, temperature extremes, suffocation, hunger, or thirst before reaching their destination.

At the pet shop they may have their fangs removed or their venomous sacks punctured before being sold, causing the reptile immense trauma. Once purchased, a snake is doomed to endure a horrific life of captivity, imprisoned inside a cage in a totally unnatural setting. An equally appalling practice is using snakes for entertainment. One of the deeply entrenched traditions in India is “snake charming.”

Alan Knight is the chief executive of International Animal Rescue, a UK-based non-profit animal welfare group that aids suffering animals around the world by saving them from unfavorable situations and re-homing them in caring sanctuaries or back into their natural environments, depending on their fitness. He has spent extensive time in India working with the non-governmental organization Wildlife SOS – India to safeguard animals, particularly the Moon bear, and now tell us more about this heartless custom.

Wherever you go in India and there are tourists around, then the snake charming, is something that everybody wants to see and become involved with. And this is the cobra in the basket. You have a guy who’s playing his flute and the cobra comes out. All that cobra’s doing is he is looking at the end of the flute, and he is moving backwards and forwards. So maybe it’s red like this, and actually that’s what he is following.

He is not being aggressive. He is not trying to do anything other than just be inquisitive and look at that. But unfortunately these cobras have been caught in the wild. They have their fangs removed, usually by pulling them out. So we’re in a situation where these people are using them and making themselves look like they’re very brave. And actually what they are, are cowards. They’ve taken the fangs out of the animal. The animal is defenseless. And what they’re doing is abusing her in order to get money.

The removal of fangs, which is comparable to the extraction of human teeth, is done without any anesthetic, causing the snake severe pain and suffering. Many snakes cannot eat or drink after this is done to them. And cobras are not the only species of snake to fall victim to the snake charmer trade.

So, the snake charmers will actually just have one or two pythons, as well as the cobra. The cobra brings the people in, and then the people will handle a python. But the python, in order to stop them biting the people or the handler, will tie the mouth together with rope.

So the animal won’t be able to eat or won’t be able to drink for the period that it’s in captivity. That could go on for six months, and then the animal will actually die. So, it’s a long, hard suffering for these animals, and it’s something that we want to eradicate. And that’s one of my goals for the next 10 years, is to really concentrate and try to get rid of all the snake charmers in India.

How many snakes are stolen from their homes each year to satisfy the snake charming industry?

In terms of snakes and the numbers used in this industry, I would say hundreds of thousands of snakes each year are trapped and used in snake charming. And basically if people on holiday in India could just say they don’t want to see these snakes, and not give them money, there would be a huge reduction in that number. So hundreds of thousands of snakes are being abused every day, and that’s a real worry.

One of the reasons that this heinous tradition continues today is that many snake charmers believe that they have no other options for earning a living.

We have a similar position where we employ snake charmers on our bear sanctuaries to build mud huts for the people who look after the bears. And generally, there’s always something they can do. Instead of using the snakes to actually entertain people, why not act as a service and go out (and show people) how to handle a snake.

You can go in and rescue them from people’s houses, and charge them a small fee to do that, and then release them in the wild. So, I’m quite hopeful that that can change in India as well.

Fortunately, India’s Wildlife Protection Act makes it illegal to injure, catch or own snakes. And this law has enabled Mr. Knight’s organization to take action.

We help Wildlife SOS in India, and basically what they’re saying is, you should be in a position to really help us, actually rid the whole of India of snake charming. I mean the law is there. The law is on our side. We can actually arrest people and take animals away. And that’s what we want to do, because we’re in a situation where, if they stay in the hands of snake charmers, they’ll just go through prolonged suffering, and we don’t want that.

So what we do is, we have a no-tolerance procedure with this. We will basically, if we see somebody with a snake, we’ll go ahead and we’ll take the snake away. These fangs, luckily, grow back. So if we put them through a small rehabilitation, within three to four weeks, we have the fangs showing through again. And so we’ll release them. We quite often use the areas around our bear sanctuaries to release them.

How can we learn to live in greater harmony, not only with snakes, but with all animals?

I think the only way forward is to live side by side with animals, to actually not eat them, which I think is quite a good start. And there are hundreds of thousands of people living that ethic. But as (India) gets more commercialized, and more Western, they believe, part of the deal is you should eat meat. And I’m spending an awful lot of time trying to convince them not to. So there are still huge areas of India that are totally vegetarian, which is really rewarding for me as well.

Alan Knight, we thank you and all others who work diligently and courageously to protect the precious lives of our innocent animal co-inhabitants and thereby create a world of greater harmony. Your efforts are a shining example of love in action, and we wish you every success in your future noble endeavors.

For more details on the International Animal Rescue, please visit:

Thank you, gracious viewers for your thoughtful presence today on our program. Enlightening Entertainment is coming up next, after Noteworthy News. May all beings enjoy long, harmonious, and peaceful lives in a vegan world.