Skin and Bones

NOTICE: S&B is taking a break. We will be back with a revamp mid 2019! Unravelling the Illegal and controversial industry that threatens global biodiversity.

Video: Eat your heart out. Snake slaughter in Hanoi's notorious snake village.

Side Note: Apologies for the delay in updates, I am currently exploring the rainforests of Vietnam, where the insect life is teaming and the power cuts are frequent.  


Earlier this week, I took a trip to Hanoi's notorious snake village. Accompanied by wild, young backpackers from across the world -all eager to experience Vietnamese culture - I watched the horrific slaughtered of a banded snake. 

Gaining popularity from the film 'The Beach', eating the still beating heart of a freshly slaughtered snake, whilst your buddies wash down its blood and gastric fluids with rice wine, is a popular past time amongst young westerners travelling through this part of the world. (One girl even mentions the film whilst witnessing the act, how cultured!)

Somehow I managed to film the entire encounter without intervening or throwing up.  



Witnessing this act - as part of my journey to discover local attitudes to wildlife - I could not help but notice the blatant disregard for the animals life and welfare, by all involved. I mean what did I expect? Everyone in the party knew exactly what they were paying into, they were here to drink snake blood and feel macho about it. Hostels and hotels frequently run trips to the snake village - an open planned, over decorated, rickety, bamboo establishment on the side of a dusty orange road on the outskirts of town- to taste 'local delicacies'.

"It's cold blooded, it doesn't feel pain"  -The world of reptile emotion and cognitive behavior explained by one tourist. 

The irony is that, these tourists come wanting to experience authentic Vietnamese traditions and what they buy into is the exact opposite. This business is not part of modern Vietnamese culture. The gimmick is fueled entirely by tourists. 

At the expense of wild animals. 

Video stills of snake cages in Hanoi's snake village. Credit: Josephine S Crouch  

Video stills of snake cages in Hanoi's snake village. Credit: Josephine S Crouch  

Many snake species (including the king cobra, seen here infusing a vat of rice wine) are protected by law nationally in Viet nam and internationally by CITES authority Appendix II. Yet, a large number can still be found in illegal markets and smuggled along trade routes for consumption across Viet nam and in China. With claims from retailers that these animals are captive bred, it becomes a little more difficult to discern what is actually illegal. However, the fact remains that when there is demand illegal hunting occurs, wild populations are still harvested to supplement the captive stock.

There are over 100 forms of 'Ruou thuoc' aka medicine wine found in Vietnam, a large amount of them containing endangered species. With just the simple idea of 'tradition' coupled with retailers marketing it as an aphrodisiac, it becomes almost too easy to entice gullible, blinded, paying tourists. So go ahead, drink that bile. It will make you strong and virile (assuming anyone will go near you afterwards!)

The whole experience left me feeling sick and pretty ashamed at the human race. These animals, like most, are solely seen for their economic gain to the individual, and it is unlikely to change as long as people are willing to pay for the 'authentic experience.'

Do your part, don't buy into this madness and give support to local NGOs working on the ground here in Vietnam to save species and stop illegal trafficking. 

Video stills of Cobras in bottles of rice wine. Credit: Josephine S Crouch  

Video stills of Cobras in bottles of rice wine. Credit: Josephine S Crouch  

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