Brasstown, N.C. has made its mark in the annals of Tar Heel history, much like Benson (Mule Days), Banner Elk (Woolly Worm Festival), Lizard Lick, Duck, Spiveys Corner (Hollerin contest), and Oxford (Hot Sauce Contest).
Nestled in the mountains, this little town, population less than a thousand, is known as the Possum Capital of the South, and a number of years ago the town started having a ‘possum drop’ on New Year’s Eve.
Now don’t panic – this is probably the luckiest possum in the state. Each fall, a possum is captured and kept in a pen, fed and totally cared for. Then on NYE, he’s put in a see-thru Plexiglas box appropriately decorated for the season, and hoisted up in the air. At midnight, the box is SLOWLY LOWERED to the ground, the container is opened, AND THE POSSUM IS RELEASED. Now I ask you – is that cruel? This annual event has brought thousands to the tiny town to celebrate the new year – and of course, the local economy has benefited.
This year, it attracted PETA, who filed a suit against the state Wildlife Resources Commission, who had issued a permit to trap the possum. Now – bear in mind – you can KILL a possum in North Carolina 24/7/365 (and you can even use dogs and spotlights if you’re so inclined.) Yet a lawyer for PETA suggested in court that it is cruel and traumatic to expose a typically shy, nocturnal marsupial to big crowds, loud music and fireworks.
Is this all PETA has to do with their time and money? Nope.
On a more serious note, I offer the following story, which also happened in North Carolina. UNFRIKKINGBELIEVABLE!
In May and June 2005, Ahoskie, North Carolina police officers found the bodies of dozens of dogs (including some puppies) stashed in a dumpster behind a grocery store. In the course of their investigation, the police staged a stakeout and observed two people in a van with PETA written on the side dumping animals into the dumpster.
The two individuals, both PETA staffers, were arrested and indicted on 21 counts of animal cruelty, 3 counts of obtaining property under false pretenses, and 7 counts of littering.
A few days after the arrests, local authorities told Greenville, North Carolina’s WNCT-TV News they had found more than 70 additional dead animals that may be connected to PETA.
They went to trial in January 2007.
If you ask PETA about the North Carolina trial, they will probably tell you that their staffers were acquitted of animal cruelty and obtaining property under false pretenses. That’s true; however, they were found guilty of littering.
PETA never denied killing the animals in the back of the van, nor did they deny that some of the animals were “adoptable.” They got off of the charges largely because the state statute does not specifically penalize individuals for euthanizing animals, no matter how healthy they are.
Not sure WHAT was in the possum cage Monday night when the Possum Drop happened. Country store owner Clay Logan lowered an opaque padlocked box wrapped with photos of opossums at the stroke of midnight, not revealing what was inside. A federal judge ruled that the NCWRC didn’t have the authority to issue a permit to ‘capture’ a possum. That decision is being appealed.