PETA Outraged Over Florida Python Challenge's Decapitation Rules

A state-sponsored hunting contest for Burmese pythons in the Everglades has sparked tons of interest, but also backlash from one animal rights group.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is urging the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to disallow the decapitation of snakes during the 2013 Python Challenge, arguing contest rules permitting such means of euthanasia are inhumane.

The Python Challenge website lists decapitation as "not the recommended method of euthanizing pythons" but "considered an acceptable method... by the American Veterinary Medical Association."

PETA noted in a letter to the FWC that this is correct, but argued such a method will not be properly executed in the wild though the challenge instructs hunters to immediately destroy the snake's brain after decapitation, whether by firearm, captive bolt, or other means.

"This bounty hunt is misguided in the first place, but allowing hunters to decapitate pythons — who remain alive and in agony and who will writhe for an hour even after their heads have been cut off — is despicably cruel," PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk said in a statement.

In the letter, PETA general counsel Lori Kettler says "it is incumbent on the commission to revise its instructions to hunters prior to the start of the contest on January 12 to exclude decapitation as an authorized method of killing." PETA says such killing violates Florida's laws on animal cruelty.

Nearly 400 people have signed up for the snake-killing contest, slated to begin next week.

State organizers, hoping the event will make headway in the fight against the invasive non-native species, will award $1,000 and $1,500 cash prizes to the entrants who capture the longest and most snakes, respectively.

The Python Challenge