Doug, I applaud your response to the guy whose question you responded to at www.straightdope.com/mailbag/msnakekill.html . I sincerely hope you set him straight. The topic itself was disturbing, but his letter sickened me. I think you were more diplomatic than I would’ve been. I felt like running him over with a lawn mower!
Regarding the gentleman cutting up garter snakes (bwww.straightdope.com/mailbag/msnakekill.html), I can only suggest that he try chopping the heads of kittens too (they can be scary when they try to scratch you!). You’ll find they take much less time to die and if you chop their spinal cords first they’ll feel less pain and they probably won’t get much of a yelp out. Write us with the results. Hope your wife is feeling more comfortable!
I apologize for my awkward wording in the OP. “…your response to the guy whose question you responded to…” Sheesh!!
I agree with Strainger–Doug was a LOT more diplomatic that I would have been.
I certainly don’t mean to defend the yutz who wrote that letter, but his question about whether the snakes he chopped felt pain reminded me of an individual my mother used to know. He claimed CATS didn’t feel pain…and the kicker is that he was a VETERANARIAN.
No, I’m not kidding. My mother stopped having him spay cats immediately after he said that.
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Would you believe that I occasionally spend time looking for snakes just because they (and most of any wildlife) is endlessly fascinating? Why do humans feel the need to kill what they do not understand? This guy is so lucky to have a yard full of snakes, and goes and needlessly kills them in a completly foolish manner. I can’t wait until my spaceship is repaired so I can get home.
The jerk’s probably tryin’ to look like a big shot in front of the missus.
It’s disturbing on so many levels:
A woman with a fear of snakes and her husband who cuts them in half.
Paging Dr. Freud…
I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one who was completely revolted by that letter! I’m also fascinated by wildlife - I love to watch bees collect nectar & pollen from flowers (if you hold still, and don’t get in their way, they ignore you).
I think Doug was much too diplomatic, although I guess it goes with the job. That’s just sick! Tell your wife to get over it, pal!
The Cat In The Hat
I don’t want to spoil the party, but could someone point me to an athoritive source that concludes that snakes feel pain? My sister and several of my friends are big time snake fanciers, and this is something even they can’t agree on. As is pointed out in the original post, snakes are cold blooded. They are also very primitve. They are not just kittens without vocal cords. Sure, they respond to stimuli, but so does bacteria. It seems to me that it is probably impossible to say if a snake in councious enough for that stimuli to register as “pain.” I not saying I am pro-sliceing snakes in half, but I think the when someone writes in to the mailbag they deserve a researched, supported answer. Otherwise, he should have given no answer at all.
Manda, I guess I would ask you why snakes wouldn’t feel pain. You compare them to bacteria, but bacteria don’t have nervous systems – snakes do. I don’t think something has to be “conscious” to feel pain – this isn’t an emotion like love or hate here.
There is a significant difference between having a nervous system and being able to feel pain. Flatworms have nervous systems. When their nerves are stimulated, they react in what appear to be strictly instinctive, consistant ways. There is no reason to think, however, that they have enough brain to express any negative or positive feelings about this reactions. Pain is a cognitive thing. It’s not just having nerves stimulated–it’s feeling bad about having nerves stimulated. Opiates work not by acting on nerves, but by acting on the brain chemistry that interprets the stimuli of the nerves.
I think snakes probably do feel pain, BTW. I just thought that SDSTAFF Doug kinda dropped the ball on this one. The SD has a reputation for providing reliable, researched and authenticated answers; Doug appears to have given an instinctive response instead. It may be the right answer, but I would like to see some evidence.
" The SD has a reputation for providing reliable, researched and
authenticated answers;" heh. heh heh. Hehhehheeheehehehhh. sorry. Seriously the question as to whether the 'lower; animals feel pain is difficult to answer. They certainly respond as if they do,but do they ‘feel’ the stimulus as ‘pain’? There are different types of nerve sensors that respond to specific stimuli,some are sensitive to ‘cold’ and only cold,some to ‘heat’ and only heat,some to ‘touch’,etc.there are ‘pain’ receptors.Snakes have them but not as many as we do. I have always liked snakes kept,bred,and raised them since I was a kid. I have no tolerancefor people who over react to them. I don’t expect every one to like them but killing every snake one sees is senseless,ignorant, crue and wasteful. Those little garter snakes (@ 21/2 foot max?) are eating a LOT of pests, king snakes ,one of my faves eat rattle snakes, now i like rattlers too but not up around the house ,please. so I really like king snakes.Instead of slicing the mighty serpent slayer in half let’s just slice into him a little way and pour in some salt to soak up the blood.
“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx
First I must apologize for the verb number error in my original reply. It was late, I was asleep.
Manda: When I was in high school many of my friends were born-again Christians. My view of things was quite different but they would try to make me see things their way. One of their arguments was that evolution had to be all wrong because someone had redone a few carbon-14 dating tests and found that objects previously tagged as millions of years old were only thousands. They said this as if my beliefs grew out of the carbon-14 dating technique, not out of logic and the fact that their beliefs were just plain silly. Which finally brings me to my point. Who the hell cares if snakes feel pain or not? You focus on that ASPpect as if it’s in the Rule book. No pain, kill what you like. The truth is, any life is not your life to take. It’s a complicated way to live if lived as absolute as possible. That would probably apply mostly to Buddists. I can’t stand spiders but when one is inside I use a well developed method for chucking them outside without any harm. It’s not my life to take. I know the spiders or flies or the ants I try to avoid bicyling over when I can feel no pain. They have no idea that they are alive. The trick is to imagine what choice they would make if they could. Natural selection logically filters it down to creatures that want to live. I don’t even conclude that snakes should live because they are useful in some way. They should live because, THEY SHOULD LIVE! End of story.
“Who the hell cares if snakes feel
pain or not?”
The original poster of the question! I repeat, I do not think it is right to cut snakes in half. But the question about whether or not snakes feel pain is interesting in and of itself. The Straitdope mailbox is not a SOAPbox. If SDSTAFF Doug wanted to proffer his opinion, that’s fine, but he should have backed that opinion with a little research, such as the information Mr. John provided. If the question disgusted him so much he couldn’t stand to do the research, he should of chucked it and answered a completly different question. In any case, he should of answered the freakin’ question.
Hello? As I read it, Doug answered all three questions that were asked, and offered some comments about things said but not asked.
The question of whether to add detail to answers, and how much, is tricky and left up to each individual, depending on the question. Otherwise, we’d be writing book chapters rather than simple responses.
For more info on whether or not various animals feel pain, look at these sites:
Looking at these sites, I’m leaning towards the snakes-can-feel-pain position.
There was also a recent International Symposium on this topic: http://www.nsplus.com/nsplus/insight/animal/pain.html
Simple. Bleeding creatures feel pain. I don’t care what any scientific study shows. The man is SICK and his wife is a wimp. I would much rather have harmless snakes in my yard (which I do) than to have the insects and bugs. Get over your macho hopes and let the snakes do their work!
It is interesting to note that a large percentage of those bitten by rattlers in this country every year are people who take part in “Rattlesnake Round-ups.” The purpose of these round-ups is presumably to get rid of the snakes because of the dangers they pose to the community. There are usually events at these gatherings in which the participants show off by handling and torturing snakes, etc., and a lot of snake bites are the result. Poisonous snakes really don’t pose much of a threat to people who aren’t swinging them like lassos over their heads.
I understand that you’re not defending the snake-chopper, MandaJo. But I think the answer to your question is that most people don’t even know there’s a debate–they assume that a creature the size of a snake will feel pain if injured.
For that matter, I doubt the snake-chopper really had any question that snakes feel pain. I suspect he was just trying to rationalize behavior that he accurately feard would make him sound like a jackass.
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Regarding the question of the beheaded snake feeling pain: I think the physical trauma of the beheading would interfere with pain signals, as well as general nervous system signaling. If I remember correctly, human heads that have been separated from their bodies sometimes blink or make mouth movements - random firing of the nerves due to the sudden fatal event. Of course, all of this is speculative on all our parts; snakes cannot speak for themselves and we cannot truly know what they do or do not feel, whatever psuedo-scientific crappola we trot out.
However, regarding the philosophical question of the issue: I believe that taking the approach “What would the snake/ant/amoeba do/want/feel” is fallacious. This seems to be a combination of a “Golden Rule” and misapplied empathy. The situations in which we find ourselves, and the choices we consider, have philosophical implications. To pretend fantasy situations in order to create answers for real situations strikes me as somewhat shifty, especially considering the undoubtedly erroneous anthropomorphism involved.
Perhaps a better way of dealing with the larger question here in this snake-chopping issue is to respect the snake’s function in the world; that to destroy it for being aesthetically disturbing to one’s wife is quite simply not a very good reason.
I’m certainly not siding with snake-axing, but I think there’s an element here being missed. When I’m faced with pests (such as mice in the house), I have to decide how to handle the situation. I certainly do not want to go around outside slaying mice, but neither can I have them in my house. So if I must do something to them, I want to know if I can capture them and move them; if that is not feasible, and I must destroy them, I want to do it in a way that is reasonably painless. If I must kill a creature – for instance, I had to have my dog put down – I want it to be as painless as I can make it.