Stop Celebrating Mass Slaughter With Rattlesnake Roundup

Target: David Yoskowitz, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Goal: Strengthen protections for snakes and regulate rattlesnake roundups that conclude with slaughter.

Every March, residents of a Texas town gather in large numbers to witness the annual Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup. During the festival that has run for over six decades, thousands of pounds of live rattlesnakes are put on display in a coliseum. They are wrangled, made to show their fangs and rattling abilities, and milked for venom. Then, after the festivities—which include parades, pageants, and carnivals—have concluded, the snakes are slaughtered and skinned. One participant in the latest festival, known as “Miss Snake Charmer,” summed up this ritual as follows: “it’s actually exhilarating. Especially when you get to chop off their heads, it’s really fun.”

The “fun” begins when rattlesnake hunters descend on the dens of rattlesnakes during the winter and essentially choke them out of their homes. A hunter explained the process: “we’ll put…maybe half a cup of gasoline in the back and they don’t like the fumes…they’ll come out to kind of get a breath of fresh air…and as they start moving…we’ll start snatching them.” Child conservationists wrote letters to individuals in charge of the roundup prior to the event, explaining how these animals are very shy and their rattle is like “a scream” for help. They were not seeking to end the event, but rather to implement changes considerate of these animals’ welfare. Chief among the pleas was a request that the roundup become a “no-kill” event, just as a similar festival in Georgia has become.

These requests ultimately fell on deaf ears, however. A roundup organizer dismissed concerns as “they’ve got their opinions, but we’re gonna do what we’re gonna do.” Sign the petition below to urge this state’s leaders to take a more humane approach and to crack down on these festivals normalizing torture and death.


Dear Dr. Yoskowitz,

“We’re not trying to shut down the event or make some cultural change within the community. But there’s no reason why we can’t transition into celebrating wildlife without killing them.” This message comes from activists, including many young children, seeking reforms to the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup. But this important message is continually rebuffed by organizers who try to frame the mass slaughter that takes place by the event’s end as education or as community safety.

Rattlesnake bites and associated deaths are extremely rare, and in fact these snakes are more likely to strike in defense against hunters and people trying to capture and hurt them. And as for education, children do not need to see animals killed and skinned en masse to learn about their lives. In fact, such a display sends an altogether different message: that these living beings are ultimately meaningless and unworthy of humane treatment. Pairing the slaughter with carnival games and parades only reinforces this dangerous message that teaches children nothing about respecting life.

These organizers know that such an event can take place successfully without the vicious cruelty. Georgia’s Whigham Rattlesnake Roundup took concerns to heart and made their event “wildlife friendly” and no-kill. The Sweetwater organizers have made it quite clear they have no intention of following suit. This state’s chief conservation agency can set a different standard, though, by advocating and fighting for enhanced protections for these snakes and for all at-risk reptiles. Make ending this unchecked and unrestrained cruelty a top priority.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Alexis Chateau

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