Monday, December 16, 2013

North Carolina town. state legislature and PETA battle over New Year's Eve possum drop

A battle is raging in a small town in Appalachian North Carolina over a traditional event that locals say is harmless fun intended to show the spirit of rural life, but that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals calls cruel and inhumane.

While thousands crowd Times Square in New York every New Year's Eve to watch a giant ball drop to the ground to signify the beginning of a new year, Brasstown, N.C., holds a similar event, replacing the ball with a live opossum. (Reese News Lab photo by Eliza Kern)

Last year, PETA successfully blocked the state from issuing a permit for the event, Valerie Bauerlein reports for The Wall Street Journal. In response, state lawmakers passed a law, signed earlier this year by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, called the Opossum Right to Work Act. "The state hopes its new law—which allows it to grant a permit for a wild animal to be held 'for scientific, educational, exhibition or other purposes'—will bolster its case in a two-year legal battle with PETA," which said that "While the new law clears up technicalities about handling wild animals, it doesn't change state standards on the humane treatment of animals."

When they passed the law, "State legislators called the opossum drop wholesome fun, an economic boost in a poor county—the event has drawn thousands of people to the small town—and an honor to the humble opossum, which is captured shortly before the drop, kept in a clear box with air holes and set free immediately afterward," Bauerlein writes. A judge is expected to make a decision soon, though town officials said the drop will go on with or without approval, with the live opossum "officially" replaced with a stuffed one. It wasn't clear if the town used a stuffed opossum last year, or went ahead and used a live one without approval. For details, click here.

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