I own two snakes. They eat frozen mice.
Frozen mice is mice that has been bred, raised, euthanized, and then packaged along with dried ice to be shipped to your door through expedited means. When you receive them, they’re nice and frozen. On feeding day for the snakes, I simply take out the number of mice that I need and let them thaw in room temperature before feeding them off to the snakes.
The thing I’ve observed for a long time, but have always taken for granted, is the appearance of the mice themselves. All the mice I’ve received over the years from multiple vendors were clean. Their feet were never caked in filth or feces. There were no scars anywhere on their bodies. They were never missing any toes, never had broken tails, and their ears were open and whole, like delicate flower petals – nary a single nick or any bits missing on them. On the first few days when I get them, before damage from the freezer sets in, they would have nice, bright black eyes.
The detailed description of the dead mice is not meant to be morbid, but to illustrate a point. The mice were treated well their whole lives. They lived in a clean enclosure, so the individuals were clean; the most I’ve ever seen on them is the occasional piece of small wood shaving stuck on their fur, indicating the bedding they were put on. Clean feet free of feces also points to clean enclosures where the animals were not walking in their own filth. They even smelled ok; nothing pungent, just a slight rodent/pissy aroma. Once again this indicates a clean enclosure. Lack of scars and other physical damage also imply that the mice lived in a spacious enough area that they were not stressed and occurrence of fights were minimized (the videos I linked above and below also show that). In the case of fights, individuals were able to get away from the aggressor.
Frozen mice are typically euthanized with carbon dioxide. There are debates as to whether it’s completely painless akin to falling asleep, or if it still causes some distress. However it is still as good as one can reasonably get at humanely killing a small animal.
I’ve taken the good care and respect rodent breeders show to their animals for granted over the years. It’s only when I’ve compared the mice that my snakes eat to the animals that I eat that I realized that animals raised for human consumption are treated much worse.
Animals for people are monkeyed around much more. Organic, hormone free chicken breast I buy from the supermarket are tiny little things that I can eat in 4 or 5 bites after they’re cooked. The cheap, regular type of chicken breast I can buy at Wal-Mart are gigantic, monstrous things more than twice the size of the hormone free variety. That tells you something. We also treat our food animals much worse. All the videos and documentaries I’ve seen of industrial animal farms are absolutely filthy, where the animals are wallowing about in their shit, with barely the space to get away from others of their kind or even turn around. I’m not going to bother linking to shock pictures of that nature since I’ve sure anyone who’s got access to the internet has seen them. Animals in meat farms are so crowded and so stressed that many resort to attacking each other. Furthermore, when it’s time to kill them, we don’t always do a quick and painless job either, partially due to the larger size of animals we’re dealing with and sometimes partially due to negligence.
I don’t know for sure why rodent breeders can afford such care and respect for mice meant for pet consumption, be it snakes or hawks or whatever, but animals bred for human consumption are treated so much worse. Is it because rodent breeders care for their wards personally, while industrial meat farms often employ machines and low paid workers? Maybe it’s because people who buy frozen mice will refuse to buy from a vendor if they receive obviously scarred, sickly and mutilated animals, but shoppers in a supermarket buying chunks of skinned and cut up meat doesn’t know better.
Either way, it’s a shame. I have a mostly vegetarian diet nowadays and I have no idea if it makes a difference. But it is ironic that the animals my snakes eat are treated much more humanely than the animals that I eat.