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  1. #1
    Registered User YungRasputin's Avatar
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    The Ethics of the Scaleless Morph

    iím not trying to ruffle feathers but ever since i became aware of this and have seen the option while searching for stuff - this has never really set well with me - this idea that you would breed snakes that donít have scales on purpose who also apparently are more susceptible to various illnesses comparative to normal ball pythons and i feel from this standpoint ethics strongly comes into play insomuch as i feel it is indeed a moral question - much like the breeding of pugs and other brachycephalic breeds

    there are other morphs too that i feel should be drawn into question given the propensity for deformities and illnesses but the scaleless morphs seem v grotesque to me which again, i donít mean to be so blunt or something but still tho - what do you think?
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  3. #2
    Registered User YungRasputin's Avatar
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    even setting aside my bias for wild types - i think it is objectively questionable and something to consider
    The Collection:
    -P. regius, B. c. imperator, S. amesthistina, P. bivittatus/progschai, P. sebae, M. s. mcdowelli

  4. #3
    BPnet Veteran nikkubus's Avatar
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    It's been brought up on here a few times and there are mixed feelings. I think we need more evidence from unbiased sources before we can truly answer that question, but it logically follows there is going to be at least some increased risk and need for more specialized husbandry. I think at minimum, a person should have a decent amount of experience with other snakes before entertaining the idea of one with increased needs or risks, and these shouldn't be for first time owners.
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  6. #4
    Registered User Erie_herps's Avatar
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    I don't see a huge problem with them only if the owner is 100% willing and able to take extra care of their special needs. They don't require a ton of special care, but special substrate and hides is necessary, and being able to help during sheds if it's necessary. It is also believed that they don't live past 3/4 years and females are infertile. But I would need more documentation to accept this as a fact.
    I don't think that anything should be outright banned unless it causes actual pain to the animal and removes the quality of life. I don't think scaleless actually feel pain and I think they can still have a quality of life. As an example lemon frost (leopard geckos) would remove the quality of life. The animal would have a good start to life, but then it would develop horrible cancer and need to be euthanized.

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  8. #5
    Registered User Animallover3541's Avatar
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    Re: The Ethics of the Scaleless Morph

    I don't think you are wrong at all to question this at all! (After all, we aren't as judgemental as r/ballpythons on reddit!) The way animal breeding and husbandry improves is by us questioning what we are currently doing. With that being said, the most controversial morphs I can think of would be the spider and the scaleless as you mentioned. I myself would never buy a spider, but I understand the reasoning of people who do. Personally, I also have issues with people having bare snake racks as there is some research coming out (I can find it somewhere if need be) suggesting that, at the least, snakes need some amount of enrichment (ex. faux plants, hides, rocks, etc.), although snake racks themselves are not a problem but I've found that males generally prefer to be able to climb if they can and most tubs are a little too short for that.

    Similarly, I have faced lots of scrutiny for the way I keep my show rabbit, Petunia. Many people are against wire bottom cages, and while they have good reasoning it is not always bad. They also criticize the way rabbits are handled at shows as they are moved around a lot or flipped over but again these animals are introduced to this type of handling at a young age.

    Animals breeders are often labeled as "villains" because of things like puppy mills, unhealthy dog breeds or other animals breeds, shows, etc. but it all stems from the actions of a few bad people and a misunderstanding of those in these hobbies which are good and care about their animals. These are respectable hobbies as long as we analyze and re-evaluate our ethics as the information we receive changes.

    Edit: found the paper! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8158952/
    Last edited by Animallover3541; 09-15-2022 at 09:36 AM.
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  10. #6
    Registered User Malum Argenteum's Avatar
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    I personally think that animal breeding is best when it goes in different directions that the one it is going with such morphs as scaleless.

    That said, this isn't an isolated or new issue. OP, you mention certain dog breeds as analogous, but probably many more are relevant -- all the breeds that are at increased risk of hip dysplasia, and the herding/working breeds that perhaps shouldn't be on the pet market.

    Livestock breeds are the same. Wool sheep breeds need a lot of extra care to live -- wool is a selectively bred trait, and does not benefit the sheep. Without regular shearing, wool sheep are at high risk from overheating (especially during lambing), makes them a lot more susceptible to flystrike, and since their tail doesn't stay clean of feces as it does in wild coat type breeds it is almost always docked (cut off) shortly after birth. What's somewhat worse is that these breeds are still currently used for meat even though the wool isn't worth the cost to shear it.

    Cornish Rock chickens (a breed cross used for virtually all chicken meat in the US) are much more troubling than any problematic reptile morphs. They grow ridiculously quickly (broiler chickens in the store were harvested at 7 weeks old) and so cannot be provided perches (their underdeveloped legs break when they hop down in the morning) and cannot be fed free choice (they will literally eat themselves to death). At harvest, their organs look terrible -- swollen and discolored. Of all the chicken breeds I've kept (six or eight over the years), Cornish Rock are the only ones I think shouldn't exist.

    In all these cases, there are real or perceived financial incentives to keep producing animals whose morphology detracts from their quality of life (either directly or because they tend not to get all the additional care they need). I wonder: if all reptile morphs of a certain species had the same price tag -- that is, remove the profit motive from breeding, and the Veblen Good motive from buyers -- which morphs would people breed?

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  12. #7
    Registered User YungRasputin's Avatar
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    Re: The Ethics of the Scaleless Morph

    Quote Originally Posted by nikkubus View Post
    It's been brought up on here a few times and there are mixed feelings. I think we need more evidence from unbiased sources before we can truly answer that question, but it logically follows there is going to be at least some increased risk and need for more specialized husbandry. I think at minimum, a person should have a decent amount of experience with other snakes before entertaining the idea of one with increased needs or risks, and these shouldn't be for first time owners.
    this is my thing with this: it’s cool if people want to provide care/love for snakes with disabilities - much like it is cool for dog people to adopt dogs with disabilities; they all deserve love too! but it’s the breeding these snakes to have these specific abnormalities *on purpose* and *for profit* - that i feel is the primary issue because it’s 1 thing for abnormalities to occur randomly, that’s nature, that happens but i feel it is entirely something else to do this intentionally, you know?
    Last edited by YungRasputin; 09-15-2022 at 11:19 AM.
    The Collection:
    -P. regius, B. c. imperator, S. amesthistina, P. bivittatus/progschai, P. sebae, M. s. mcdowelli

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  14. #8
    BPnet Veteran nikkubus's Avatar
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    Re: The Ethics of the Scaleless Morph

    Quote Originally Posted by YungRasputin View Post
    this is my thing with this: itís cool if people want to provide care/love for snakes with disabilities - much like it is cool for dog people to adopt dogs with disabilities; they all deserve love too! but itís the breeding these snakes to have these specific abnormalities *on purpose* and *for profit* - that i feel is the primary issue because itís 1 thing for abnormalities to occur randomly, thatís nature, that happens but i feel it is entirely something else to do this intentionally, you know?
    Yes, it is quite a different thing than accidental disability, I agree.

    I guess I just can't agree that the negatives objectively outweigh the positives. It can be difficult to place values on either of these, especially when we don't have a lot of good research. What sort of impact does it have on the hobby or interest in reptile education in general to have some of these purposely bred oddities floating around for example? That's a very difficult thing to measure with a lot of variables.

    One thing to note, I don't think it's nearly as much of an issue as "breeds" where breeders are restricting the gene pool so tightly. We never have to worry about all ball pythons disappearing or even a scaleless line disappearing over this because we are mostly breeding for morphs and combos, not avoiding introducing new blood into our lines. Some of these horrible traits in breeds are fixed there because the organizations and breeders involved have decided that purity of their lines is more important than the health of the breed. If at some point we decide, it is in fact objectively bad to produce scaleless animals, a breeder could very easily obtain animals with that removed from their line in a single generation of outbreeding and be done with it. Theoretically, dog breeders *could* outbreed and correct these problems, but it's more difficult because there are many different genes involved and a huge cultural structure built around purebreds.
    7.22 BP 1.4 corn 1.1 SD retic 0.1 hognose

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    BPnet Veteran Snagrio's Avatar
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    Don't usually watch them anymore, but I chanced upon a recent Snake Discovery video where they had to remove their scaleless rat snake from his zoo exhibit enclosure due to constantly scratching his bare skin to the point where he had bruises and scars all along his back and sides. ...I think that speaks for itself really.

    And in the very same video they went on about breeding more scaleless snakes. Cognitive dissonance at its finest (that or dollar signs since just like pugs and friends scaleless animals command far higher prices).

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  18. #10
    BPnet Veteran Crowfingers's Avatar
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    My take on the issue comes down to general biology. Snakes have scales as a physiological defense against dehydration, predators, and the general environment. To take away something that is essentially "necessary for normal life function" is wrong. I feel that way about most genetically malformed creatures that we have tinkered with.
    There is also a difference in something missing scales (which prevents to some extend normal bodily functions) and breeding something for say, color or pattern. I haven't seen many scaleless reptiles in person, but the few I have seen have chronic fungal or bacterial infections / chronic dehydration issues / retained shed etc. I also work at a vet clinic so I am not always seeing the healthy pets.

    The two that come to mind with stuck shed were certainly weird. It seemed that without the scales, the natural lubricant they produced didn't serve it's purpose normally. The old skin just adhered to the skin beneath, in a few thinner spots, like just behind the jaw and around the vent, the new skin actually tore when the old skin started peeling. Neither survived long. These were also corn snakes, but I would assume the effects would be similar. Their care wasn't terrible, humidity was a little too high for 'normal' corn snakes (breeder suggested higher humidity since they lacked scales) and they had red lamps with no thermostats, but compared to some husbandry, it wasn't awful - the owners had done more research than most.

    I tend to believe that screwing with genetics for aesthetics purposes is almost always a mistake. This starts to get into the immoral (and at times cruel) side of things when you are selective breeding for things that are so detrimental to basic biology that the animal can't preform 'normal' activities. The animal may not seem unhappy, but that does not mean that it is ok.

    To me, a scaleless reptile seems as twisted and unnatural as say, a skinless cat...The only difference is the skinless cat would die very quickly from fluid loss, so no one would breed them.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    More thoughts...

    I know everyone mentions various dog breeds, but this also has a valid point. To me there is a difference in continuing to breed brachycephalic animals that literally exist in a state of hypoxia because their nose and/or soft pallet are abnormal, and breeding dogs that (usually) are only a certain color +/- some other possible congenital issues. Labs are predisposed to hip dysplasia and lipoma's, but the grand majority function, (breath / breed / run / eat) as a normal dog should. There is no such thing as a 'normal functioning' french bull dog. Sure a frenchie can run and play and enjoy car rides, but that 'cute' snuffling snort is not breathing, it's their soft palate getting in the way of their trachea - with every breath in the soft tissue sucks against the windpipe like putting your finger over the bottom of a straw, they literally can't take a normal breath. This is not always severe, but we see a lot of dogs that need surgery to cut this tissue out (usually done when they are spayed or neutered around 6 month - 1 year old). The surgery can greatly improve their quality of life. But is is right, or moral, to purposefully breed an animal that will need corrective surgery as a puppy just to breath somewhat better?

    The moral issue comes into play when people start looking at something that they have created and weigh the "having to take extra steps to care for x" against the quality of life of said organism. We joke at work that when doing surgery on brachycephalic breeds (cat and dog), they should be done last since they take so much longer to extubate (wake up from anesthesia). Which they do. Most animals start to swallow and gag as soon as they wake up enough to feel the endotracheal tube that is protecting their airway. 90% of the time, the flat-faced breeds don't fight it, some even just resting and looking around with the tube still in - as if their body is like "wow, so this is what air feels like".

    If someone can justify the cost and extra care a genetic mess of an animal needs against the animals' quality of life, then you will likely find a market for those animals. And once money gets involved, suddenly quality of life takes a back seat to profit (not just on the breeders. If people didn't buy these breeds then no one would sell them). Pet owners that have a bull dog that is doing its best to be a dog will see a happy, lovable dog that enjoys life as much as anything else. That animal does not know any other way of life - so if it is not actively suffering pain or distress, does it have a good quality of life?
    Is it immoral to breed animals that have genetic issues because they can't perceive any other way of life? The animal does not know that it is not as nature intended, they just live.

    A kitten that is born blind from some fluke will grow up to be a perfectly happy and normal cat that acts like any other cat. Some owner would come along and make allowances and do everything possible to give them a great life. That's wonderful and nothing is wrong with that. They'd learn their owners schedule and would play, purr when being petted, beg when they heard the food bowl, etc

    But...

    What if someone came up with a mutation that caused abnormally large but non-functional eyes - just because things with big eyes are cute? Large eyes are more prone to ulcers and injury, esp if they are non-functional. Sure there are medications that could heal the ulcers, eye drops to keep the cornea's healthy, etc. These big-eye'd cats would also live as happily as any other, they'd purr and play with their owners, beg for food, and play in boxes too. But this, to me, would be very immoral and sad.

    Sorry for the very long winded post

    I am not trying to attack or judge anyone that has any of the breeds mentioned in this post. This is more of a philosophical discussion of morals and animal husbandry
    I myself have a ranchu goldfish, which is essentially the "pug" of the fish world (fat head, round body, no dorsal fin), and I know that he has special needs beyond any regular classic goldfish. But I really had to ask myself whether I could have one given how I feel about selective breeding for aesthetics. My ball python is also a Cinnamon Mojave, not a "normal", so genetic tinkering made him too. So to that point, I'm also a hypocrite.
    No cage is too large - nature is the best template - a snoot can't be booped too much


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