Thailand: Snake farm faces controversy over mouse food

A king cobra photographed in a zoo Image copyright Wikimedia/Tim Vickers
Image caption Many snake farms exist to allow tourists to get close to Thailand's reptiles

Plans for a snake farm in the north of Thailand may fall foul of the country's newly-passed animal welfare law, it seems.

Local officials want the authorities to apply the Animal Welfare Act when it comes to what's being touted as the world's largest snake farm being built in Uttaradit province, The Nation newspaper reports. District official Pisit Wongthong told the paper that locals were concerned not for the 1,000 snakes being reared for the 300m baht ($9.1m, £6.1m) centre, but for the 10,000 mice that are also being bred to feed them. Urging the authorities to investigate the site, Pisit said: "Isn't breeding mice to feed snakes a form of animal abuse? If there is a misunderstanding, then the related agencies should explain it to the public". However, Wisut Sarapat, chief of the provincial livestock office, said that while feeding snakes with live mice "caused unnecessary trauma to the animal", he was unable to act without higher authority. There was no comment from the farm's owners in the Thai press.

Thailand's Animal Welfare Act only passed into law in November 2014, and is the country's first piece of legislation to punish people who neglect or fail to adequately take care of animals, the Bangkok Post reported at the time. Breaking the law can result in large fines and up to two years in jail. A BBC journalist says that while some snake farms conduct research and collect venom, many establishments in Thailand exist as tourist attractions which allow visitors to get close to the country's larger species of reptile.

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