PETA on Florida pythons: Don't just beat them to death

MIAMI — Bludgeoning isn't enough. Neither is beheading. Pythons deserve both, insists People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

From anybody else, the advice might sound like overkill. But the animal rights advocacy group argues there are humane reasons for state wildlife managers to require python trappers to take the extra step of whacking, then hacking.

In a letter to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Thursday, PETA expressed concern over the prescribed methods for hunters participating in a new eradication program to euthanize Burmese python with either "a blunt or sharp hand-held device.''

The group argued that while American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines for euthanasia approve of "cranial concussion'' for reptiles, it also advises following up by cutting off an animal's head or otherwise severing its spinal cord.

Patricia Behnke, a spokeswoman for the FWC, called those guidelines a "laudable set of objectives for laboratory and research settings'' but "rarely practical'' for large field programs.

The agency has confined its experimental python eradication program to seven reptile experts well-versed in humane methods for dispatching the large, dangerous snakes, she said.

"These guys know what they're doing,'' she said. "That's why we hand picked them.''

The hunter who two weeks ago killed the first python caught under the program used a pocketknife to sever its spinal cord, she said.

Stephanie Bell, a cruelty case manager for Norfolk, Va.-based PETA, acknowledged the procedure might sound macabre to the public and stressed it was not the group's first choice.

"Our strong preference is, of course, to have these animals humanely rounded up and euthanized by lethal injection,'' she said.

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