Better Of Dead Than In Captivity



The poem below was written in 2010. It was written after l had closed my doors down to my business TSKA Exotics. Leading up to the writing of this, many of the pro-keepers were against my way of thinking. They believed, wrongly that l had sided with the anti-keeping organisations. I hadn’t, my thoughts of the professional keeping of exotic animals was no different to the keeping of any animals – domestic, agricultural or exotic – it was always the same.

That if you wished to keep a pet, a companion or an exotic, then you had to undertake the responsibility of ownership. You had a duty of care to provide to all of your charges – you fed, watered, maintained, secured, kept healthy, doctored via vets when needed, loved, nurtured and generally looked after them – in other words you were accountable for their wellbeing and safety.

As l said back then, and indeed you will see me write it now, it’s aint rocket science!

However as a professional keeper and an animal trader who had a high reputation for quality be this in the animals l dealt with, my client list, my vetting system and my own practical keeping skill and husbandry – the thoughts of the animal rights movement was not lost on me – l could see very clearly what they were referring to. I too had seen the neglect in the UK with keepers, pet owners and others towards these animals that they maintained they loved like their own children, and at times l would shudder at that thought! Did this mean they treated their own kids like they kept their animals?

I was in a limbo towards the end days of the business, l was very much and still am for that matter a pro-keeper, if you keep your animals responsibly l do not have a problem with animals being kept as companions or whichever field they fall under. I do not have a problem with zoos, l do not have a problem with conservation projects, l simply do not have a problem with animals being kept the way they should be kept, looked after properly, administered to, loved and nurtured. No.

I do have a problem with those who treat animals unfairly, abuse them, neglect their needs and in other words should not have animals in their care.

Animals sadly have always been subjected to human cruelty, governmental cruelty, society cruelty, we cannot avoid it. I don’t support it, and l will always where possible protect any animal if l am able.

But l do not support illegal activities, l do not support many of the movements of the animal liberation organisations as l find that they can be extreme – but it doesn’t mean that l do not understand what they say, it just means that l think a safer and more communal resolve needs to be found with regards cruelty to animals, because if we do not have this, then perhaps animals should never be kept and maybe they are better off dead than in captivity.

In 2008, l was one of those who crusaded for the Code of Practice for Primates in the UK in so far as husbandry. Things needed to improve not just by a little bit but greatly. There were too many animals freely available in the UK, and not enough regulations .. my business and my efforts finally paid off and l was able to sit with some brilliant minds and get this document passed.

Primates As Pets: Is there a Case for Regulation was something produced by the RSPCA over here where they used my figures about the need for regulation for the species as quotes in their document. Of course the biggest error they made with this document was the actual title – primates in my eyes were never pets and shouldn’t be classified as such, yet in the UK from 2001 – 2009 primates were everywhere and people were keeping them in their houses in inadequate housing, which l could then understand the title of the document in 2009.

My views of animal care and husbandry are no different to what they were 10+ years ago, l am still very much a pro-keeper, l simply don’t keep exotic species any more and purely am content with the companionship of my dog Scrappy. I wouldn’t keep exotic species any more, because my views whilst not left, are more left than right and whilst l don’t agree with the phrase better of dead than in captivity – l do fully understand that now much better than l even did in 2008.

What also sparked this poem off, was a case over here when extremist anti-species activists dug up the body of a guinea pig farmer which was taking views to a different level, and one which l most assuredly do not support. I am not in support of animals being bred for medical research any more than most people, but l didn’t accept this kind of behaviour either.

This poem lost me my freelance writer’s job with the industry l loved, where l was involved in spin doctoring stories for the animal industry, and a so called friend of mine, my editor stopped talking to me for almost 7 years in his ‘disgust’ of my opinions. When we did speak, we realised we could no longer truly be friends as our opinions were too far removed from the crusades we have taken up in 2004. A good 75% of the pro=keeping hobby also turned their backs on me and yet some 9 years later, many of those apart from hard core reptile keepers agree with the sentiments in the poem.

I am oft criticised for not being political, l have never said l am not, l just have interests and passions and opinions in other politics, environmental, the world in which we live, in the fauna and the flora, we have way too few people fighting with any real passion for these fronts.

The poem was also written and released not long after a relationship l was in had caused me so much heartache with regards her hoarding actions she performed under my roof, that it destroyed a large portion of my soul. I have discussed her in this blog before. But sadly in 2009/10, hoarding was becoming more prolific as a national problem.

So without further ado, l give you the most controversial poem l had ever written …

Better Of Dead Than In Captivity

Unconditional Love

As their keeper you are their voice,
They as your charges are your emotion,
You took on their responsibility by choice,
They reward you with their love and devotion,
Putting up with all your faults and little quirks,
Whilst you spend dedicated time tending their lives,
And as your companion they award you the perks,
Of ownership and the beauty that gives,

Suffering does not actually affect you until it does,
When it stares you in the face and pleads for assistance,
This is when the enormity of cruelty wrenches,
For animals under conditions like these do so in silence,


What’s it all about A.L.F?

Some years ago, the Animal Liberation Front,
Issued a line governed purely by emotion,
A cunning ploy, a disturbing yet clever stunt,
Marketing cruelty as a promotion,
In order to make people aware of the neglect,
Present in the world of keeping animals,
Which in turn would successfully inject,
Valuable finances to support their battles,

Back then l was working in the exotics industry,
And was annoyed at the blatant disregard,,
Not forgetting their complete lack of responsibility,
In so far as how they managed to tar
All keepers in one fatalistic blow,
Irrelevant to the feelings or emotions,
Of those of whom went to the furthest plateau,
To ensure their charges were of healthy disposition,

But why indeed should they care for their actions,
The political clout and booming voice,
Of their statement was all that mattered,
To them, for with it now ‘live’ they could rejoice,
‘Better off dead than in captivity’ as a line,
Was an extremely powerful expression,
Making many stop dead in their tracks at the time,
Thinking that, all-captive animals suffered depression!

Extreme parties and organizations such as these,
The hard core of animal welfare politics,
Are never happy and are always hard to please,
Living by their own code of morals and ethics,
Not known for their ability to deal in facts,
But passionate in their beliefs about what is ‘right’
Caring not if misinformation lacks tact,
Just as long as the message is loud and bright!

Their answer was simple and straight forwardly blunt,
No animals should be kept in captivity,
For to do so only meant their lives would be unpleasant,
And if they were free from the chains of brutality,
Then mankind would be a much better place,
Instead of profiting from the misery of the trade,
Operated internationally and sweetly embraced,
… By all who participated,

It was not so much that their marketing affronted me,
More a case of in some respects they were not incorrect,
That animal welfare, neglect and especially cruelty,
Was becoming more of an issue and far from perfect,
The United Kingdom at that time was demanding,
Less regulation, licensing and very little enforcement,
Meaning that animal keeping would become more tempting,
And as such more animals would possibly undergo torment!

Now l may not agree with all of their politics,
And certainly cannot tolerate some of their motions,
Especially when they act sometimes more basic,
Than the animals that they are so devoted,
But of more recent times, l understand their logic,
And what motivates them to be the way they are,
For mankind’s’ behaviour is becoming more tragic,
I hang my head in shame when l think of just how far!

‘Just One More’

Suffering does not actually affect you until it does,
When it stares you in the face and pleads for assistance,
This is when the enormity of cruelty wrenches,
For animals under conditions like these do so in silence,
It is said that in order to truly understand an emotive issue,
Then you must come face to face with a tragedy,
For only then will it make understandable sense to you,
And your beliefs and politics instantly change mentally,

Having seen animal cruelty up close and personal,
Indeed so close it made me weep,
My views on my industry changed dramatically,
When l realized just how low some people could creep,
In the ever quest for continually adding more,
Animals to their collections, but not always grasping,
That to do so increased their workload even more,
Meaning that those already kept may be subject to suffering,

But hoarders know no bounds such as possibility,
In their eyes, it’s the unconditional love that they offer,
Believing firmly that alone is their prime responsibility,
Not accepting that animal’s health may become feebler,
When love alone is simply not or ever enough,
And that feeding, cleaning and maintaining wellbeing,
Is among the answers to making the environment less rough,
Ensuring that the animal is secure and enjoys the tasting,

Of a richer life when in captivity, shared with mankind,
Irrelevant to whether this be privately or commercial,
The animals’ health is the duty of those to who have assigned,
Dedicated time, attention and love and who are blameful,
For when it goes wrong, because of their potential neglect,
When not realizing that just one more, may be one too many,
And those animals are a privilege to own and not some object,
To boast to others about in a manner that is described as carefree,
With the availability of animals today in an unregulated society,
That does not quite understand nor comprehend,
How it easily encourages those who don’t know how to say,
No, cruelty will always reign and health continue to descend,
Making it increasingly difficult to enforce and finally cease,
And this will in turn just make animals’ lives more miserable,
With further suffering and neglect and knowing no peace,
By those who quite simply put are brutal,

No longer do l have the time or patience for the politics,
Of the so-called industry that states that it cares,
Nor for many of the participants in the world of exotics,
Who continually add more so that they too can compare,
And flourish and rejoice in an animal’s decline,
This society of ‘oh so’ loving exotic and domestic enthusiasts,
Who do claim that they keep animals as companions,
And further do so for the animals’ interests!
Respect those who do understand and bend over backwards,
And ensure that their charges suffer no abuse,
Treating them with the love they are so deserved,
And truly comprehend all of the animals’ virtues,
Mattering not whether they are dog, cat or an exotic,
The keeper has chosen to enrich their life with another,
As such, your responsibility is simple and not cryptic,
Enrich theirs as they do yours and not make it bleaker,


Years on now from hearing of that stunt,
Delivered and marketed to the nation,
By the Animal Liberation Front,
I am always in a constant state of frustration,
But l can now say hand upon my heart,
That l truly understand the messages’ brutality,
And whilst still very much a pro keeper in part,
Understand do l ‘Better off dead than in captivity!’

© Rory Matier 2010

14 thoughts on “Better Of Dead Than In Captivity

  1. Yes, I agree. Everything is so extreme. Have a pet and treat it well. But it isn’t a child ~ I had to rehome 2 older cats when one of my daughters was a baby because she was allergic and you’d think I was Satan, according to the animal rights’ crazies. Oh I should rehome my baby instead? 🙄 I ran into the same kind of lunatics again a few years ago when I was reading some of the vegan forums. My God. But the anti vegans are just as horrible. Everyone has to be extreme nowadays.

    1. I know what you mean Paula, l am quite an open and liberally minded person, but ye gods some of the views are just too much.

      I remember comments that were made after 9/11 about the comparison of lives lost to the lives of chickens every year and l was mortified!

  2. I remember what happened in that room. You wrote about it before. Heartbreaking is too mild a word.

    All of our animals are rescues. The Big Dumb Dog, the cat, the two bearded dragons and the corn snake. I can’t stand any kind of animal cruelty! Neglect is as bad as abuse!

    We live in a disposable society and too many people see animals as property instead of the living breathing creatures they are.

  3. I agree with you completely! Much like anything in life, just a few ‘bad apples’ can spoil the whole basket. It’s truly sad that people can’t be more responsible in general.

      1. Exactly. People have been ‘let off the hook’ for entirely too long.
        I am well, thank you so much! Hopefully you are as well!

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