The small North Carolina town of Brasstown may have to discontinue their annual opossum drop because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals calls the tradition cruel.
PETA’s complaints to the Wildlife Resources Commission have caused the homage to the Times Square ball drop to be questioned. The animal rights group thinks that the use of a live opossum is illegal, and until matters are resolved, the celebration should not take place.
“Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and cruelty to animals is indefensible," PETA Director Delcianna Winders told The Associated Press. "Using a captive opossum as the centerpiece of a raucous party is cruel and illegal."
The sleepy village of Brasstown has a population of only 250, and the 18-year-old custom usually brings in anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people, so the residents may not want to abandon the event.
Clay Logan, who organizes the drop, says the opossum is slowly lowered from about 18 feet in the air in a plexiglass box, and that no harm is done to it. Also, he claims that the family nature of the event is one of the reasons it is so popular.
“It’s a lot of good clean family fun. No alcohol,” Logan said. “We advertise it as the only New Year’s party you’ll remember the next day no matter how much fun you had,” he added.
In PETA’s opinion, even the lack of alcohol doesn’t make up for the party-like atmosphere, which exposes the marsupial to “a barrage of terrifying stimuli.”
Despite the claim, no opossum has ever played dead, the way the animals usually do when startled.
PETA’s letter to Logan requesting he use a stuffed opossum like Tallapoosa, Georgia does for their New Years’ celebration was ignored.
Logan has no plans to cancel the event, as he asserts that the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved his use of the live animal.