06-17-2016 01:18 PM
There is no explanation for the word above, the title of this discussion. Please, if you read this, comment, talk about it. This needs to be talked about. I put a lot of time into writing this, so I appreciate the time of anyone who looks it over.
What makes something a feeder (animal whose sole purpose is to be food for another)? White fur and red eyes? An exoskeleton? And don't just dismiss this as some overly humanitarian rant by a hypocrite. This is a truth ignored by humans because whether or not we admit it, we've generally accepted the idea that we're above all this, that ethical dilemmas involving animals like mice, rats, and cockroaches are beneath us. Some of you probably skeeved at reading the words "mice" "rats" and "cockroaches". These are three creatures that have been so poorly represented in our culture that their very names are associated with filth and disgust. This information could not be more false. These creatures do not deserve to die in the gruesome way they do when they are sold by companies like Petco as "feeders". Take in a deep breath, try with everything you've got to release your preconceived notions, and please keep reading. All of this information can easily be found online if you don't believe what I say, but I can assure you I've tested everything you're about to know through experience by keeping these incredible creatures as companions. Also, do not take this discussion thread as an attack on the other equally amazing creatures that need to eat mice, rats, and cockroaches to live. That's not what this is about. This is about our false assumptions and theINSANE notion humans have, that we are accurate judges of how much one life is worth compared to another.
Let's start with mice. Tiny, beady-eyed, jumpy, bitey little things aren't they? The previous statement could not be more incorrect. First off mice are no more likely to carry disease than a household dog. Any animal can be a vector to illness, and any misconception that mice and rats are disease ridden creatures can be ludicrously traced back all the way to the Black Plague. People are also fond of saying that rats and mice are filthy because they "live in sewers and dumpsters". It should be noted that domestic mice and rats are as far from wild mice and rats as a household dog is from the wild dogs of the savanna. I'd also like to remind the world that humans have dominated and domesticated the planet Earth. Where would you like the rats and mice to go? They're scavengers, and their smart. They don't hang out in dirty places because they are dirty, they hang out there because that's where the easy food is. These are places that people make dirty; the mice, rats, and yes, even cockroaches, are there to clean it up! In theory, it should be a great symbiotic system. The problem is, humans put out too much trash for our cleanup crew to handle it all, which promotes over-breeding and then they get blamed for the mess, because that's where we see them.
In my years working at a pet store, I was only ever bitten by a mouse once, and it was because I picked it up by its tail, like I was instructed. NEVER DO THIS, no matter what careless people tell you. It hurts the mouse, and can strip the skin right off their tail, leaving their spine exposed; I honestly deserved that bite. Generally (of course, there are always exceptions), store-bought mice will never bite you. If they are truly frightened of your giant hand coming down into their habitat (who wouldn't be?) they will run, not bite. Like any animal, though, this fear can be diffused with regular handling. The truth is, once their fear is gone, mice make one of the best companion animals. This goes for both the "fancy" mice Petco sells as companions, and the "feeders" that are strictly for snakes to strangle and swallow whole. In the wild, mice live in large family units and socialize by cleaning one another, play-wrestling, and cuddling in a pile for warmth. They have this same capacity in captivity, and with proper care, will form a similar bond with their human caretaker. Some mice enjoy a ride on someone's shoulder or in a pocket. Some like to be pet and snuggled. Some like to learn tricks (yes, you can train a mouse to perform commands to cues) for a treat and a pat on the head. Even those red-eyed little "feeders" that seem to freak some people out for no tangible reason.
Imagine, for just a moment that you are the mouse in the pet store, let's say one that isn't all too frightened of people anymore. Try your best to keep that human superiority filter out of here, the one that makes you want to say I'm being ridiculous right now to picture that you're a mouse. Imagine being plucked out of your habitat by a giant hand, which you know isn't all too bad because you've been fed and even held by these giants from time to time. You travel in a little cardboard carrier; the change of scene is invigorating. When the box is open, you see another one of those giants, maybe a new friend. He dumps you out into a glass tank. The next thing you feel are hooked daggers sinking into your back. Now don't stop reading just because you're human and you don't want to deal with what mice experience. Be the mouse for a second. You're mortified, betrayed by the things that feed you, clean you, hold you. You feel a leathery sheath sliding up over your back end. It's a tight fit, too tight to move. The daggers slide out and stab in higher up your back while you shake around and try to bite whatever's got you, but now it's coiled around you, choking the air out. The light's getting dim, a portal is closing around what you can see. Your back is on fire as the daggers pull out and stab into your shoulders. The lights gone now, the stabbing is over, and something is pushing you down into a warm, tunnel. You're too weak to struggle, and you can't breathe, so you just squeeze down into nothing.
That was pretty disturbing, huh? If you read the whole thing, I'm proud of you for facing the truth. That's the reality for these "feeder" mice. That's what happens to them when they're bought. Their whole existence leads to that moment because they have a different color fur and eyes than their "fancy" counterparts, even though they are just as capable of intelligence and affection.
The same exact scenario transfers to rats. I love watching people's reactions when they hear the words "rat" and then watching them either regret the face they made or call me crazy/disgusting for having and loving two wonderful little girls (rats). When I think of these splendid creatures being fed to large reptiles... I can't even describe what it does to my heart. Rats are spectacular animals. Do a quick google search on experiments in rat empathy (not that I agree with animal experimentation in any way) and you'll see that they're more like us than most other animals. They have social groups. They show their love for each and every member of their family unit with grooming, licks, and sounds (grinding, clicking, and even grunting at humans as an attempt to communicate). They have empathy for one another, and even for people. I am astonished at the number of people who have come to me in the store with "fun facts" like ten rats can eat a human body or rats will eat your skin right off if you're covered with food. Where do people get these outrgeous ideas about these sweet creatures? I have seen my girls actively distress and clean my wound when I have been cut. As far as domestic rats go, there isn't a mean bone in their bodies. Yet still, albino rats (white fur, red eyes) are bred as "feeders" and sold as food for large reptiles. And people buy them, valuing their lives by scale of false stereotypes; they're disgusting, they spread disease, they're pests. Rats are one of the cleanest mammals that exist. They groom themselves and one another constantly. Rats, like mice, are no more likely to contract and carry disease than you, me, or a dog. Rats only populate cities so immensely because humans supply them with more food than they can eat by littering, and those aren't even the kinds of rats we're talking about (wild vs. domestic).
Now this is a creature that not only has no natural fear of humans, but will readily accept any kindhearted human into their family unit. Recent studies by a Grad Student from the University of Minnesota show that rats have a strong memory and feel regret. Think about a rat remembering the first time someone picked it up in the pet store, a curious new sensation. Now think about that rat regretting the trust it gave the next person it sees, the one feeding it to a snake. See the paragraph about mice above for a description of the process. It should be noted that "fancy" and "dumbo" rats are not sold as feeders by companies like Petco. Only albinos, who posess the exact same capacity for emotions that some would previously have said were exclusively human. Who are we to judge something's worth by our own asthetic opinions? Oh right, we're human.
Now for the roaches. If I haven't lost you yet, you've got an open mind, and I think that's one of the best things about people like you. There are 4,500 species of cockroach. 30 are considered "pests" meaning they infest our houses. Only four are any good at actually multiplying and spreading in a human environment. To put that into perspective, that means that a little over half of 1% of cockroaches are pests. What does that make the rest of them, then? Oh, just insects that live outside the same way that butterflies and ladybugs do? Some cockroaches even have wings, yet butterflies and ladybugs are considered beautiful, while roaches are nothing more than cause for a stomping session around the house. This is just plain ignorance. I find the fact that Petco sells live cockroaches exclusively as feeders to be absolutely absurd. Most of you are probably scratching your heads, saying "they carry cockroaches?" because you've never seen their tank in the store. That's because they don't have a tank. While the much more familiar "feeder", the brown cricket, gets a big enclosure for the colony with food and water daily, the roaches stay in the little three-inch-wide tupperware containers they're shipped in, with unbroken seals. They never get to come out. They never get new food. For anyone with a true vendetta agains cockroaches (city-dwellers, I've found, are relentlessly unforgiving), these are not American roaches. These are roaches from Madagascar and South America, captured from their home or bred in a factory, and shipped to be food. The first breath of fresh air they get, if they don't starve to death in a covered cup, is when they're dumped in with a lizard or spider that literally rips and snaps them into pieces, then eats them.
For people who see cockroaches as little more then a shoe-smear waiting to happen, here's a little bit about them. Whereas we have one lens in our eye, roaches have around 2,500. They can see near 360 degrees around them at all times. They also have one more sense than we do; they can detect air currents and changes in pressure in a way that goes beyond what we would call touch. They also feel sound as vibrations through the hairs on their legs. That means that, by the time you catch up to the little guy, he's seen and felt you coming from across the room. If, when you lift up your foot to squish him, if he doesn't run, that means he doesn't think you're going to hurt him. These creatures are not nefarious in any way, shape, for form. They are actually one of the least dangerous insects that exist. They cannot sting or puncture you in any way; cockroaches (with the exception of the orange-spotted roach) will not bite you, as they are not carnivorous. There is little to no record of roach cannibalism, which unique among arthropods (includes insects, arachnids, and other bugs), and they live in large family units with their own unique cultures from one species to another. Madagascar Hissers will charge at one another and headbutt to decide who is most dominant. The lead male then climbs to a high spot and sings (hisses) a mating song, while the females circle him and the less dominant males circle them to pair with whoever is left over. Some roaches (IE: hissers) even give live birth and will carry their young on their back for weeks to find them food. From studies in Hong Kong, it is known that roaches can even be conditioned and learn. They can retain what they've learned for up to four weeks with no testing. They also do not carry disease, almost ever. As they are purely vegetarian (besides the orange spotted), they do not carry dangerous diseases in the form of contaminated blood like mosquitos or ticks. Roaches also do not enjoy rotten food, like many believe. The same germs that make us sick and die, will make a cockroach sick and die, so you won't be getting any serious illness from these little guys.
My main issue with Petco however, as far as roaches go, is not that they sell them as live feeders. As someone that's owned reptiles, I know that they need something squirmy or crawly, or they won't eat. However, the store's treatment of these little wonders is absolutely horrendous. The crickets Petco sells as feeders enjoy a drammatically different set of living conditions over the more intelligent, benevolent (crickets will readily canabalize one another and can bite reptiles given the chance) roaches. As far as I understand, the employees of the company recieve absolutely no training, formal or informal about what to do with insects in the store. As such, no one does anything with them, at all. Arachnids (tarantulas, scorpions) are kept in tanks on the same level asreptiles and employees are expected to feed and take care of them. Why is it that a company gets to decide which arthropods are worth training their employees to take care of, or even if they get food or not! This is simply unacceptable. Say what you will about cockroaches, even after all that you read (I hope) above, but there is no denying that they are living animals. Petco is a store for animal health and wellness. The company actls like cockroaches are not alive, and therefore are undeserving of its most basic requirements like food, water, and good ventilation. Their mission is Healthier pets. Happier people. Better world. Well, as someone who sees cockroaches as amazing pets and owns several, I can say I am certainly not happy, and I'm starting to see our world as a pretty skewed, screwed up place where humans get to define what deserves to live by our own ageneda. Worse yet, most people won't even read all of this because they think these issues are so far beneath them. Those people need to wake up. Whether or not you value the life of a cockroach, I can guarentee you the cockroach does, and that deserves some thought and conversation. If you disagree, you have less empathy than a rat.
So what's the alternative to all this? What's the proposed solution? Petco: stop selling live mammals as "feeders". Treat your arthropods with the care that any living thing deserves. I truly hope this doesn't just get erased, or at least that it stays up long enough to change just one person's mind. If anyone had their eyes opened here, or already had their eyes opened, please take what I've said and use it to do something good. Go to your local pet store, look at the conditions of their animals, even the feeders. If something doesn't look right to you, speak up! Things won't change for these animals unless we advocate for them and one thing a business must care about to stay afloat is the loyalty of their customers. We put these animals in cages. We can at least make sure their cages are comfortable and humane! If you're against the idea of a store selling a live animal, capable of bonding and compassion, as food, say something to the owners! Talk to people who own snakes! It's going to feel awkward. You'll feel like you're stepping on toes and crossing boundaries, forcing people to think about something unpleasant. That's because you are. This whole situation is entirely unpleasant. But you know who all of this is even worse for? The mouse. You could save the suffering of five thousand mice and rats for every snake owned as a pet just by switching to frozen rodents. Snakes need mice and rats to live, and I'm not going to argue the perks and downfalls of owning a snake (I see them as incredible animals as well), but they in no way at all need to eat live rodents to live. It's not necissary. No matter how you slice it. They will eat frozen and thawed mice or rats, also available at stores like Petco. I can't tell you how many customers have said to me at my store "my snake won't eat frozen". Yes they will. You just need to transition them. I have done it with picky snakes in the store myself. Search the process online; its a bit of work, and it may take several skipped feedings (your snake will not let itself starve, it is an animal with survival instincts), but it works. Feeding frozen is cheaper, easier, more humane for the rodents, and safer for the snake (mice and rats can fight back). People get lazy; why take the time to convert my snake to frozen/thawed when I know he'll take live? See my above paragraph about being eaten from the mouse's perspective.
And seriously, Petco, this company needs an update on regulation about arthropods. Those cockroaches need to be fed, or you need to stop selling them. There is no other way. Your store claims to promote the health of pets, yet you grossly mistreat a living animal in the store and act like it doesn't even exist? Roaches are alive; they are not a stock item to be faced and forgotten about. Even if the majority of customers don't see them the way I do, its stil a poor representation of the way you treat animals. Honestly, I don't think the company can stand much more of that.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Your actions have a huge impact on the animals we call friends, and even the ones some of us call food.
Stop the selling of live "feeder" mammals. Stop the mistreatment of misjudged arthropods. People, we need to value life again. All life. If we don't, or if we just dismiss this issue like we have been, that makes us self-proclaimed judges of how much any given life is worth. That starts us down a very dangerous path.
06-18-2016 02:38 PM
08-21-2016 07:27 PM
01-26-2017 05:48 AM
I have a pet rat. He was going to be sold as live food to a snake.I can't help but feel that I saved him.Couldn't and wouldn't even begin to think of him being killed that way.
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