The category for Venomous Personality of the Year has been permanently removed from our Reader’s Choice contest.
This decision has been made only after much thought and discussion behind the scenes and has not been done lightly.
The purpose of our annual awards is to highlight and promote those that go above and beyond to represent the herping community in a world that rarely understands us. We want to honor individuals and businesses that keep the best interest of the animals as their top priority, while at the same time, working and interacting with people in positive ways.
We could do all this with just Editor’s Choice Awards, but we wanted to open it up to our readers as well, and give all of you a platform to recognize and shine a spotlight on good people. We (the Editors and Management at TRR) can’t possibly know everyone out there. It’s important to us that the people we don’t know have an opportunity to be recognized through our Reader’s Choice Awards.
But in giving readers this platform, we are bound to run into disagreements (sometimes strong disagreements) on who should be “allowed” a chance to win an award. It’s not uncommon for us to get complaints about so-and-so not being “worthy” of the award. We’re not going to start pulling individuals out of the polls just because someone doesn’t like them. Such actions would completely negate the spirit and the purpose of Reader’s Choice.
The Venomous Personality has always been a challenging category because there is so much that can go dangerously wrong when working with hots. Extra care must be taken to ensure that interactions with the public not only keep the animal’s interests at heart, but also public safely. A big part of keeping hots is the responsibility to set a good example in how to safely interact with them. Not everyone understands that, or views the controversy in the same light.
Because of the huge gulf in opinions on what kinds of examples venomous handlers are obligated to set, we get a wide variety of candidates in the nomination process…a few of which will seem particularly poor choices for representing the venomous community as a whole. (And some truly egregious candidates over the years may have made it into the top ten only because a few geniuses believe their sarcastic irony is hilarious.)
It’s always been our hope that good sense would prevail…that the community of those that care about venomous animals (whether they keep them or not) would rally around the genuinely great examples and help them to win the prize. That does not appear to be the case this year. Rather than putting their energy into supporting positive candidates, we’ve received a number of very strong complaints about more than one persons in our poll, demanding that this-or-that individual be removed immediately because they are not deserving of any recognition.
We can’t do that. We can’t remove individuals from the READER’S CHOICE polls just because some people are unhappy that they are there. However, we do NOT want to hand out recognition or awards to individuals that we believe are endangering the public with their actions.
There will always be controversies and always be people unhappy with some of the candidates and/or winners in various categories. That’s just the nature of the beast. The vast majority of those conflicts have no lasting impact on our community. We have come to believe that the conflicts and controversies within the venomous category CAN have a lasting impact on our community and on the general public. We would rather remove the category completely than allow that to happen.
We will continue with our Editor’s Choice Award in this category and select individuals that show exemplary care in matters of husbandry and public outreach.
TLDR: The Venomous Personality category has been permanently removed from our Reader’s Choice Awards due to the volatile conflicts generated and the high risk of giving international recognition for excellence to an individual that may be engaging in, and therefore promoting, truly dangerous activities.