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Large crowds, live music, and loud fireworks — it would have all the hallmarks of a typical New Year’s celebration, if not for the terrified opossum dangled in a cramped box over the cheering mob. This is Brasstown’s annual “Opossum Drop,” which adds a North Carolina “twist” on the prominent ball drop in Time Square. (See the video under “More about this issue” for a first-hand look.)

In recent years, event organizers have faced increased pressure from animal advocates, culminating in a lawsuit that prevented use of a live opossum in the 2013 event. Not to be deterred, State Representative Roger West (who also happens to sponsor the Opossum Drop) introduced a bill (HB 1131) “to exempt Clay County from state wildlife laws with respect to opossums between the dates of December 26 and January 2.” The bill became law in June 2014.

An implicit acknowledgement that the event violates the state’s existing wildlife laws, this law sets a poor precedent, prioritizing personal and commercial interests over animal welfare. Worse still, this “family friendly” event teaches young kids in attendance that it’s okay to masquerade animal abuse as entertainment.

This leaves us until the end of the year to let North Carolina’s General Assembly know we don’t tolerate this brand of animal cruelty. Fortunately, a trio of Senators that serve on the state’s Environment Committee also voted against this awful piece of legislation. Sign below to stand behind them and call on a law to repeal SL 2014-7.

Sign Here

Dear Senators Jeff Jackson, Trudy Wade, and Angela Bryant:

As members of the state’s Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources, I am writing to you to ask you continue standing up against animal cruelty in all of its manifestations. Specifically, this is a request to repeal SL 2014-7, which permits Brasstown, NC to continue using live opossums in their annual New Year’s celebration, the “Opossum Drop.” All but the event’s most ardent supporters recognize this façade for what it is — animal cruelty masquerading as entertainment.

The Opossum Drop is especially dangerous in its depictions of animal cruelty. Billed as a “family friendly” event, the celebration dresses up torture and animal abuse in a veneer of frivolity that belies the tragic underpinnings of the event. Each year, organizers capture and confine the typically reclusive marsupial in a cramped space where it is left to dangle above thousands of cheering onlookers as they celebrate with loud music, fireworks, and even musket fire.

Concerned citizens are dismissed as hippie killjoys out to ruin a town tradition in the name of political correctness. But “tradition” often serves as a last refuge for anachronistic practices that fall from social favor. Opossum Drop’s defenders are particularly disingenuous, ignoring the fact that the event was fabricated in 1990 as a desperate marketing ploy for the tiny Appalachian town. Since then, the event has quickly enshrined a public display of animal cruelty that now enjoys state protection.

Those same supporters also argue the captive opossum receives better treatment than a wild opossum and then is released back into the wild after the event. Yet reams of evidence and experts counter that the abducted mammal suffers potentially lethal trauma from the exposure and likely perishes shortly after release. Opossums are nocturnal creatures that prefer dark and secure areas — not a Plexiglas case left hanging above a rambunctious crowd during a fireworks show.

A replica could easily stand in for these unfortunate opossums and prevent any potential for abuse — not to mention the mounting cost of legal battles in courtrooms and the state legislature — while carrying on the tradition. In fact, true adherents should recall the very first Opossum Drop used a ceramic replica and only later introduced the live opossum.

As it stands now, Opossum Drop’s only legacy is one of animal cruelty, teaching future generations that such mistreatment is not only tolerated, but actually encouraged. The punchline of many jokes, it’s easy and even tempting to dismiss the troubles of this solitary marsupial. It gives me some hope to see a small enclave of reason and empathy operating in an environment dominated by personal and commercial interests.

Please, do what you can to convince your colleagues and your constituents that SL 2014-7 is a shameful law and needs repealed immediately.


(The Undersigned)

Petition Signatures

Jul 27, 2016 Amelia Dyrek Jesus you people are ignorant!!!
Jul 27, 2016 (Name not displayed)
Jul 27, 2016 b Dougherty
Jul 27, 2016 Liz Seff
Jul 26, 2016 Robert Stroud
Jul 26, 2016 Annamaria Bianchi
Jul 26, 2016 Bob Bellamy
Jul 26, 2016 Katherine Mouzourakis
Jul 26, 2016 Michelle Howe
Jul 26, 2016 Michele Pariseau
Jul 26, 2016 Bonnie Sharpe
Jul 26, 2016 Jodi Igard
Jul 25, 2016 Kazuko Endo
Jul 25, 2016 Cynthia Parzuhoski Perhaps we can use your children in the box?
Jul 25, 2016 Diana Noel-Labieniec
Jul 25, 2016 (Name not displayed)
Jul 25, 2016 Amy Plamann
Jul 25, 2016 Shannon Moreton
Jul 25, 2016 charlotte jessie
Jul 25, 2016 Kathleen Forchelli
Jul 25, 2016 (Name not displayed)
Jul 25, 2016 caroline Harris Disgusting thing todo. States seems full of animal cruelty in all forms. what is wrong with those in charge
Jul 25, 2016 Linn Barrett
Jul 25, 2016 Lorna Wallach
Jul 24, 2016 Kristine Davis
Jul 24, 2016 Pauline Parker The thinking (hu)man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition or surrounded by a halo . . . We need a boundless ethic which will include the animals also. – Dr. Albert Schweitzer
Jul 24, 2016 Eva Kolmanová
Jul 24, 2016 Linda Morris
Jul 24, 2016 Andrew Sulay
Jul 24, 2016 Petra Egging
Jul 23, 2016 Janine Crescenzo
Jul 23, 2016 (Name not displayed)
Jul 23, 2016 Myra Cole
Jul 22, 2016 (Name not displayed)
Jul 22, 2016 Debra Dragonheart
Jul 22, 2016 Cathy M Tonarelli
Jul 22, 2016 Anne Hopkins
Jul 22, 2016 Monica Lanzi
Jul 22, 2016 Kari Castillo Teach children to respect wildlife, not exploit it. We need to teach compassion. Do not understand how this can be fun?
Jul 21, 2016 Rachael Pond
Jul 21, 2016 Mark Berriman
Jul 21, 2016 Ida Lopez
Jul 21, 2016 Lourdes Rios
Jul 21, 2016 (Name not displayed)
Jul 21, 2016 Julie Isola
Jul 21, 2016 Jennifer Esquire
Jul 21, 2016 Victoria Huddleston

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