Not all animals eat out of a bowl

A biology teacher attracted some attention recently when he showed students a boa python eating a rabbit. Live. It seems that a video of the demonstration shot by a student was posted to YouTube and the video may have been the spark that prompted this newspaper story. School administrators were quoted in the story as disapproving of the feeding demonstration.

A class was studying reptiles and a student brought in his pet boa python. Somehow it was suggested that anyone who was interested could watch the boa python being fed its usual meal: a live rabbit. The teacher arranged for the feeding to be held after school hours and attendance was voluntary. No one had to be there who didn’t want to be there. According to the story, the teacher even warned the squeamish to stay away.

I’m not bashing the school admistrator’s religious beliefs, but rather his silly inanity in the statement: “The school uses lessons and curricula that teach respect for God’s creative handiwork, and this event does not support that.” Snakes eat rabbits. Welcome to nature. Snakes don’t shop at the market for cans of rabbit stew.

If the teacher held the demonstration during school hours or made attendance mandatory in some way, then maybe that wouldn’t be a good thing. But that wasn’t the case here. If the teacher made a point of prolonging the feeding, thus torturing the rabbit in some way, I could see a reason to be upset. Maybe there was a chance that happened here, but I imagine such an action would have been mentioned in the story. If the snake owner usually fed the snake something else, like eggs or something that wasn’t all cute and fuzzy, but then this time made a big show out of using a rabbit, then I could see another reason for being upset. But the story stated that rabbits were the usual meal. In running through all of these what-ifs, I am trying to find some reason to sympathize with the administrator or anyone else who might have complained. Honestly, I don’t see what the problem is.

I see all too often people seeming to think nature is all about sunshine, flowers and singing birds. Quite the opposite is the case. Showing curious kids “nature, red in tooth and claw” in a straightfoward manner seems like good science to me. Don’t overdramatize it or tell kids its fun to torture rabbits. Just show nature at its simplest. Snakes eat rabbits. What’s the big deal?

edited later to add: The original story had said the video had been taken down, so I hadn’t tried looking for it to view. However, it appears that a copy is still out there.

I have to admit that the teacher and other adults should have tried for a bit more calm from the kids. There’s a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’, which is what I’m sure the administrator and others are offended about, moreso than the snake being fed. There’s also the little comment towards the end where someone says, jokingly, that they’ll collect a dollar at the door.

However, it was after school, and kids will be kids. I’m sure the teacher just wasn’t thinking about YouTube and how it would make the event appear to the casual observer, let alone someone in charge.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
This entry was posted in In the Classroom, In the News, Science in Action. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Not all animals eat out of a bowl

  1. Fernando Magyar says:

    Where, pray, does said administrator, believe that hamburger comes from?
    In guess he wouldn’t want to upset the little children by showing them a slaughter house or something like that would he? Imagine if some of his students end up working in such a place? Then again he probably thinks that that kind of work is for atheist immigrants.

  2. dna says:

    Phythons in the wild don’t have their prey dangled in front of them either as this teacher’s example demonstrated. What he did was no different than dangling a kitten or young cat in front of a pit bull.

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