Hey All! We’re only into our second week of this new year, and I’m already aware of 2 news stories that have the potential to hurt our hobby. As undesirable as it is, I feel I have to address how this community approaches these negative impact pieces. As usual, I am merely presenting my opinion on things and suggesting how I feel we should approach things.
Most recently, we have had to deal with the “Eaten Alive” fiasco and it’s aftermath, the misguided man who felt it was a good idea to post videos of his infant daughter playing with a burm, and now the mental breakdown of Ben Siegel, a man that many respected and looked up to. All three pieces reflect poorly on reptiles and their owners. This is a fact none of us can deny. I, personally, was appalled by all three media happenings. While I understand the point that the man was trying to make with his daughter, his attempt was not well thought out. I sympathize with the struggles Ben is going through, but his one incident of idiotic judgement is going to cost us all in the long run. And I am simply out of words concerning being eaten by an anaconda. This isn’t about my personal reaction to these stories.
In each of these instances, I have seen my news feed, as well as every forum I follow, blow up with each of us sharing the stories as we run across them. Given the theory of “Six Degrees of Separation” we are responsible for making these stories known worldwide. The more we share these negative pieces, the more we expose them to our non-herping acquaintances. People who already views us as a “lunatic fringe” rarely take the time and effort to differentiate between us and the nut who wants to get swallowed, or the pet store owner who freaked out.
With each of the mentioned occurrences, and all the others we’ve seen in the past few years, those of us who keep these animals are instantly at each others throats because some want to attack those involved while others want to defend them. The majority of the time it quickly devolves to you’re a (insert expletive here)! No you’re a (and another expletive)! Now when the general public, who we just attracted to this story, investigates, they witness a community which appears to be self-destructing. The appearance is that we don’t even like each other very much, let alone respect one another. How can we expect to receive respect from the outside world if they see us disrespecting each other?
Do I think we should try and hide our dirty little secrets? No! We have to be able to discuss the issues that effect us all. We simply need to keep the discussions in the appropriate arenas and, above all, keep the discussions civil and with some modicum of intelligence. Name calling and senseless bashing merely makes us, and anyone associated with us, appear radical and uneducated. I know for a fact, we have many intelligent and well educated individuals working with us. Demonstrating knowledge, compassion and common sense will reflect much better on this community than the trend I have been witnessing in the past. Reaching out a helping hand to an individual who has gotten in over his head reflects better than telling the individual what an idiot he is. CHET was founded with the intention of strengthening our community. That will not happen if we alienate those with less knowledge than we have.
If we can show the outsiders a family working to overcome the obstacles presented to us, rather than a bunch of infighting hicks, it will raise public opinion and be a benefit later on. Spreading the negative stories across the globe will only weaken our attempts to break the negative stereotypes. It is better to remain silent than it is to go off half cocked and without enough details to discuss the situation.
Whether you agree with me on this or not, I hope you will consider my words and consider them when the next negative media sensation hits. I would be interested in hearing everyone’s take on how we should handle these things in the future. Maybe somebody has an option I have overlooked. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through Facebook’s Coalition of Herp Enthusiasts in Tennessee page.
Until next time Happy Herping.