Letter to Editor 24 May 2017
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is strongly opposed to the exploitation of wildlife for the exotic skins trade mainly for the luxury fashion industry. The trade in exotic animal and reptile skins in particular generates thousands of animal victims to fulfil the demands of luxury fashion houses.
The recent decision by the Natural and Environment Ministry to expand the python skin trade into the European market once the ban imposed by the European Union (EU) is lifted, shows that monetary gains overrides all other concerns. It is a depressing facet of human nature that short term monetary gain is substitute for common sense and long term planning.
The python trade raises concerns such as wildlife conservation, sustainability, illegality, the trade chain and animal welfare issues amongst others. Much in demand for its unique irregular pattern spots and stripes it is the very thing that makes a species more valuable to people which in time to come may lead to its unbridled use and eventual extinction
Are snake farms the solution in tackling the black market for python skin and conserving the species - while at the same time stocking fashion houses with the luxury diamond-patterned leather? With increasing demand for python skins accessories by Europe’s fashion houses, there is much fear that the increasing demand will put pressure on wild populations and thus fuelling underhand activities. Besides there is no certainty in knowing as to whether a skin is farmed or taken from the wild.
On the other hand captive breeding can be questionable because farms could act as fronts for people to catch wild snakes, then trade their skins as captive bred. So long as there is demand there will always be a supplier.
The illegal trade in exotic skins –like all wildlife - is a high profit, low risk endeavour. There is easy money to be made without worrying too much about getting caught. Even if the snakes are wild or captive bred there are other ways to avoid the legal system either through falsification of permits and forgery of other documents.
The move for reform by the wildlife department – tackling sustainability and traceability and the illegal network may be good but it means absolute nothing compared to the issue of animal welfare.
SAM believes that no sentient being deserves to be killed for something as frivolous as fashion. For behind the luxury fashion accessories lies a dark truth. The barbaric, cruel, stomach churning insights by witnesses into the skinning of snakes alive could make for gruesome reading. Snakes are commonly skinned alive in the belief that live flaying keeps the skins supple. Furthermore laws to protect reptiles from such abuses are almost non-existent.
Equally pertinent are the growing concerns about the impact the reptile skin trade is having on fragile species and the eco-systems in which they live. Conservation of snakes is vital due to the role they play within their ecosystems. If allowed to disappear from rice fields, their prey could cause devastating effects on agricultural production, food security and national economies.
People have come to fear these stunning animals, because of their unearned negative reputation. It is high time to consider the plight of the reticulated python, the most popular when it comes to the manufacture of shoes and handbags and there is fear that it cannot cope in the long term with the high out-take by the commercial skin trade.
Reptiles are cold-blooded but wearing their skins is cold-hearted. Leave the skins where it belongs - on its “original owner”.
S M Mohamed Idris
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