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Viral video of snake handling is ‘horrifying’, ‘unacceptable’: Animal activists

SINGAPORE — Animal experts and activists, including Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng, have expressed horror and disgust at a viral online video — supposedly part of a training programme — showing a man handling a live python roughly by stepping on and throwing it onto the floor.

Viral video of snake handling is ‘horrifying’, ‘unacceptable’: Animal activists

Animal experts and activists have expressed horror and disgust at a viral online video showing a man handling a live python roughly by stepping on and throwing it onto the floor.

SINGAPORE — Animal experts and activists, including Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng, have expressed horror and disgust at a viral online video — supposedly part of a training programme — showing a man handling a live python roughly by stepping on and throwing it onto the floor.

Mr Ng, who is also the founder and chief executive of animal welfare group, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), shared the video on his Facebook page on Monday (March 11).

“When you see the video, it’s horrifying what they did and completely unacceptable,” said Mr Ng, who is an MP for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency.

“Training is important, but it shouldn’t compromise the well-being of the animal.”

He also pointed out that a number of those who commented on the video on his Facebook page had echoed his sentiments, including those who did not like snakes.

“Some people who were scared of snakes were even saying that they shouldn't do that. And that says something,” he added.

TODAY understands that the snake handlers featured in the video are employees from pest control firm PestBusters and has reached out to them for comment.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that it is investigating the matter. It has also issued a set of guidelines on the proper handling of snakes to all pest control and wildlife management agencies in Singapore.

“For example, snakes should not be unduly harmed by the persons handling it and appropriate equipment should be used to catch them,” said the authority.

‘THROWING AN ANIMAL IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE’

The incident captured on video was “definitely a case of abuse”, said Acres deputy chief executive Kalaivanan Balakrishnan, who oversees all of the group’s wild animal rescue efforts in Singapore. These include the rescue of snakes and other reptiles.

Calling the actions of the man in the video “horrible”, Mr Kalaivanan also pointed out several areas of concern.

“First, the snake was not handled properly. They were extremely cruel in the way they trained, to step on the snake and throwing it like that. Throwing an animal is totally unacceptable,” said the 33-year-old.

“Snakes are wild animals protected by law, just like penguins and otters. They should be getting the same sort of protection and respect.”

Mr Kalaivanan was also of the opinion that this was not the first time the snake handlers in the video had treated the animal in this manner. He said it appeared that the snake had been used for “repeated trainings” based on the employees’ conversations in the video, adding that this “causes a lot of fatigue and distress” to the animal.

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Acres does not use live animals when conducting training programmes, choosing to use soft toys along with videos to educate people, said Mr Kalaivanan.

Volunteers also accompany experienced professionals on live rescue missions to gain hands-on experience.

“Handling animals is not just about how to catch them. You need to have compassion, some sense of respect. You need to know what kind of animal you’re catching,” he added.

TRAINING SHOULD BE DONE BY EXPERTS

Pest control experts whom TODAY spoke to felt that the snake handlers in the video had not conducted themselves well.

“What they did in the video, that’s just not right,” said Mr Shawn Seah, 27, operations manager at Top Pest Control.

While his company does not run training programmes, it hires experienced technicians who are trained and possess the qualifications to handle animals such as snakes.

“They should get someone from Acres, AVA or the zoo (to conduct the training), these people have the expertise to carry out proper training… show them what the proper way is,” he added.

Service manager Eddie Lim, 42, who declined to name the pest control firm he works for, said that the company carries out “educated” and “humane” training programmes for its employees.

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“They are trained to use proper equipment and techniques. We have towels and soft bags to store the animal safely. We only use snake tongs if absolutely necessary,” said Mr Lim.

“Our lead technician has years of experience in dealing with snakes. Even though snakes aren’t really liked by people, he knows how to treat them.”

LICENSE FIRMS THAT HANDLE WILD ANIMALS: NG

When asked what could be done to prevent such cases of animal mistreatment from recurring, Mr Ng said he was “looking into it”, as he highlighted the limitations of the Wild Animals and Birds Act.

Although there are currently laws in place to protect animal welfare, these only take effect when the cruelty has already happened, Mr Ng pointed out.

“We need to be more proactive and tackle the problem from its root.”

Mr Ng added that he will be proposing amendments to the Act, such as licences for pest control firms that handle wild animals such as snakes as they “need to be properly trained and accredited”.

Last year, Mr Ng started a public consultation exercise on feedback portal Reach for these proposed amendments.

He said that “people were very supportive,” and that he is working with his team to continue pushing for the amendments.

Mr Ng also pointed out that the viral video was not the first instance of companies mishandling snakes and other animals. “Sometimes, these animals have to be removed for safety, but it has to be done ethically,” he said.

Related topics

animal abuse Acres

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