Update (April 14, 2023): Following thousands of e-mails and phone calls from PETA supporters, we’ve been assured that the vendor who sews snakes’ mouths shut for photographs won’t be permitted to participate in the Apache Rattlesnake Festival this year! Thank you to everyone who took action and made a difference for these animals.
PETA recently asked officials in Caddo County, Oklahoma, to investigate and pursue appropriate cruelty-to-animals charges against a photo booth exhibitor at the Apache Rattlesnake Festival who sews live rattlesnakes’ mouths shut so that people can pose with them. Neither the district attorney nor the sheriff has responded to our letter or follow-up calls. The festival is held every April in Apache, Oklahoma. The cruelty involved falls squarely within the conduct criminalized in Oklahoma Statute Title 21, Chapter 67, Section 1685—a law that makes it a felony to “willfully or maliciously torture, destroy or kill, or cruelly beat or injure, maim or mutilate any animal in subjugation or captivity, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to the person or to another, or deprive any such animal of necessary food [or] drink.” Not only do snakes experience pain during and after the crude surgical procedure, they’re also left unable to hydrate or take in any form of nourishment, likely for days. The stitching also prevents them from using their tongue, which they use to smell their surroundings. These snakes are forced to endure torture. Exploiting them for photo ops is a form of speciesism—a human-supremacist worldview.