People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has sent a letter to the Bedia Federation of India, Organization of World Bedia and Snake Charmers, urging them to encourage the use of fake snakes in place of real ones during this year's Naagpanchami among the snake charming community. The Naagpanchami will be celebrated on July 23.
PETA included some samples of realistic fake snakes along with the letter. A statement issued by PETA said Naagpanchami is held to honour the serpent god. But, instead of receiving tribute, though, these fascinating reptiles are abused and tortured. It is a crime to hunt, capture, own, use, harm or kill snakes under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Yet snakes are still cruelly captured in suffocating bags, kept in tiny boxes and starved. Their teeth are violently torn out, and many snakes' mouths are sewn shut in a highly painful manner by the snake charmers.
"Snake charming makes a mockery of Naagpanchami by turning it into a festival of animal torture", says PETA India campaign coordinator Chani Singh.
"In addition to other abuses, charmers force the snakes to drink milk, which causes them to become dehydrated and often leads to dysentery and even death. Also, the snakes' venom ducts are often pierced with a hot needle, which causes the glands to burst. Some snakes go blind when the 'tikka', which is applied to their hoods during pooja, trickles into their eyes," he added. The 'dance' that snakes perform is actually a fearful reaction to the charmers' pipes, which snakes view as threats.
Many people have switched to using plastic and wooden snakes after India banned sewing snakes' mouths shut and pouring milk down their throats, the statement added.