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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 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
Jul 20, 2016 Michael Petherick
Jul 20, 2016 Jacob Spillman
Jul 20, 2016 Mary DANDREA
Jul 20, 2016 Sofia U
Jul 20, 2016 Brenda Pendergraft Please prevent Animal Abuse of Possum Drop!
Jul 20, 2016 Rebecca Elia
Jul 20, 2016 Lauren Piacentini
Jul 20, 2016 Melinda Sabo
Jul 20, 2016 Maria Sbeih
Jul 19, 2016 karin haberthuer
Jul 19, 2016 Tiffany McBride
Jul 19, 2016 Laurie Harper
Jul 19, 2016 Stephanie Davis
Jul 19, 2016 catherine mengani
Jul 18, 2016 Debra Kern
Jul 18, 2016 (Name not displayed)
Jul 18, 2016 karen williams
Jul 18, 2016 regina silva
Jul 18, 2016 Norma Mytys
Jul 18, 2016 (Name not displayed)
Jul 18, 2016 Laurinda Micheels
Jul 18, 2016 Jackie Canaday
Jul 18, 2016 Becky Bueche
Jul 18, 2016 Sharon Perry
Jul 18, 2016 Melba Lajara barbaric and cruel

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