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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:

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

Aug 21, 2014 Lisa Delabre
Aug 21, 2014 Chantel Macias
Aug 21, 2014 Dirk Ferlen
Aug 21, 2014 Emilee --
Aug 21, 2014 Jelyn Chong
Aug 21, 2014 Jillian Walters This is so ridiculous. People who participate in this are sick!
Aug 21, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Aug 21, 2014 (Name not displayed) Please help
Aug 21, 2014 Julie Hudson
Aug 21, 2014 kirsten kinnear
Aug 21, 2014 Victoria Salter Even if they do not actually drop the animals (and I am not entirely sure that they don't do that), the poor opossums must be absolutely petrified. Please ensure that these innocent animals are protected from needless killing and cruelty. Thank you.
Aug 21, 2014 Marisa Greene
Aug 21, 2014 Alice Bittner
Aug 21, 2014 Margaret Smithers
Aug 21, 2014 Jasmine Manley
Aug 21, 2014 Patricia Kowal
Aug 21, 2014 Douglas Cooke
Aug 21, 2014 Kimberly Kauffman We can do better than this.
Aug 21, 2014 Elizabeth Esquilin
Aug 21, 2014 Sarah Desmarais
Aug 21, 2014 jane lanzoni
Aug 21, 2014 Mariam Andalibi
Aug 21, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Aug 21, 2014 Doreen Sevilla
Aug 21, 2014 Polly Livanidis
Aug 20, 2014 Charley Jacobson
Aug 20, 2014 Natalie Gagnon
Aug 20, 2014 (Name not displayed) Shameful!
Aug 20, 2014 Chris Galarza
Aug 20, 2014 Holly Kasten Pathetic
Aug 20, 2014 tonya jones
Aug 20, 2014 Marita Manzo
Aug 20, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Aug 20, 2014 Cory Culp
Aug 20, 2014 Melissa Simon
Aug 20, 2014 Rinaz Decker
Aug 20, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Aug 20, 2014 R. Stepanik This is utterly disgusting and needs to be stopped !!!!!!!!
Aug 20, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Aug 20, 2014 Angela Avery
Aug 20, 2014 Ida Fedik
Aug 20, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Aug 20, 2014 Emma Spires
Aug 20, 2014 Julie Butwin
Aug 20, 2014 Dyane Lesch
Aug 20, 2014 Kelly kilishek what a sick way to entertain people!
Aug 20, 2014 tami clasen
Aug 20, 2014 kathy malloy
Aug 20, 2014 Pat Champion

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