Rattlesnake Roundup: Barbaric or Texas Tradition?

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BY JENNIFER MECKLES ANCHOR JENNIFER MECKLES You're watching multisource U.S. news analysis from Newsy On...
BY JENNIFER MECKLES ANCHOR JENNIFER MECKLES You're watching multisource U.S. news analysis from Newsy Only in Texas, would you hear this: “Tomorrow I get to skin snakes and chop their heads off and I am super excited about it.” (CNN) That’s the newly crowned Miss Snake Charmer 2011. She helped kick off this weekends annual Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater Texas by doing just what she said -- killing and skinning a snake. Grossed out yet? The roundup started more than half a century ago so that farmers and ranchers could reduce the number of snakes in their fields. Thousands of snakes are hunted, milked for their venom, killed, skinned, deep-fried... and sold to the crowd. It’s all part of the carnival-esque event -- which draws tens of thousands of visitors each year. (KTXS) Ever tried rattlesnake meat? The LA Times explains why this Texas tradition has mouths watering: “The festivals provide brave souls an opportunity to view the venomous bounty close-up and chow down on their flesh. (Many say it tastes like chicken. Really.) ... Bon appetit.” One of the Roundup volunteers tells the Daily Mail -- this event isn’t meant to be barbaric. It’s simply how locals control the unruly rattlesnake population in West Texas. “They bite livestock, they bite the animals, your pets. They'll bite kids, people. They're a very serious problem around here.” But not everyone agrees. In an open letter to Reporter News in Abilene, one angry Texan says this about the Roundup: “One of the largest gatherings of ignorant, inhumane hillbillies in the country... This has nothing to do with controlling the snake population. It's about money and tradition. A tradition which shows and teaches tremendous disrespect toward nature.” The vendors also collect snake venom at the event -- claiming it will help researchers find cures for cancer and heart disease. National Geographic talked to a snake specialist who says, no way. “I think it is just a useless pacifier to give to the masses to say -- OK this justifies our killing and treating this animal like its some type of nasty creature. Once again, they’re just out to make a buck.” Not just a buck -- lots of bucks. The local ABC affiliate KTXS reports this event is a HUGE economic boom for the area -- estimating this years profits will be close to $1 million. A blogger for KingSnake**** is livid: “Never mind that the roundup breaks most of the health laws in the state. Never mind that it breaks every provision of the state cruelty to animals laws. The roundup is big business and no politician or government employee would dare risk his future by doing the right thing.” Sweetwater isn’t the only rattlesnake roundup in the southern US --- its just the biggest. 'Like' Newsy on Facebook for updates in your news feed Get more multisource video news analysis from Newsy Transcript by Newsy