A North Carolina town that traps a live opossum and drops it like a ball every New Year’s Eve has been ordered to pay PETA.
Last November, I reported the sadistic penchant of Brasstown, North Carolina, to torment a wild animal for no reason. In “Traumatizing a Wild Opossum – But All in Good Fun,” I described the inexplicable custom:
The man behind the Brasstown spectacle, Clay Logan, writes on his website that “the opossum is not actually ‘dropped,’ it is lowered with great care.” That is after the shy animal is trapped and taken from the wild, caged for days, and then closed up in a clear box high in the air amidst a cacophany of fireworks, muskets, music, and shouting. Only then is it “lowered.” Thousands of people come out to watch.
After all that, one traumatized little opossum is released back into the wild.
Opossums are shy, and also smart — smarter than dogs, in fact. Mothers bond closely with their babies, whom they carry in their pouches for about three months after birth. They are terrified of humans, who are their primary predator. Being sealed in a transparent box and lowered into a throng of boisterous people must be a nightmare for each year’s unlucky opossum.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the town and won. Now a judge has handed PETA a second victory by ordering North Carolina to compensate the animal rights group for the $75,000 it spent fending off the state’s subsequent appeals, just because those appeals were so darn stupid. The state Wildlife Resources Commission refused to say die after the first judicial ruling and just kept going with the litigation. It is out a lot of money over one terrible custom and a stubborn refusal to face facts.
Though PETA won, the court rulings weren’t quite the victories animal lovers had hoped for. Neither of the decisions was based on concern for animals’ welfare. The first judge, the one who ruled that the opossum drop was illegal, based his decision not on animal cruelty laws but on a law against keeping wild animals. The court canceled the permit that the state of North Carolina gave Brasstown for the opossum drop because the town keeps the animal caged for several days before dropping it each year. The only permit North Carolina could give Brasstown related to opossums, the judge ruled, was a permit to kill them. Not exactly cheerful news for the marsupials.
The second judge ordered North Carolina to reimburse PETA’s attorneys’ fees because the state kept filing petitions with the court after its battle was clearly lost. That decision had nothing to do with the opossums, and everything to do with the state’s lawyers’ poor legal strategy.
Still, a win is a win, and the court’s ruling would have put an end to opossum dropping in North Carolina, but the state’s legislature rallied to the Brasstown animal abusers’ cause. The lawmakers passed a law that permits the town to continue dropping opossums by making it legal to hold wildlife in captivity — a measure that is bad news for all wild animals in the state. In the end, despite the courts’ rulings, Brasstown residents get to keep kidnapping and torturing helpless wild animals, and cheering all the while.
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