PETA, HSUS protest Southeast Indiana "Snapperfest" | Events
RISING SUN, IN (FOX19) - An annual event that has been going on since 1996 is creating a storm of controversy this year after people found online videos of it and animal rights group PETA featured it on their website.
"Snapperfest" is a weekend campout and recreation event with many typical festival activities, and one that is unique.
That is the weekend's signature event, where men (and men only) reach into a tank of murky water containing snapping turtles, grab one, and carry it a few feet from tank, try grab its head without being bitten, and pull the head out of the shell far enough that the turtle can be grasped by its long neck.
One online video, which was removed from YouTube Friday after being online for a year or two, shows a man slamming the turtle onto a mat on the ground, grabbing its head, stretching its neck, standing up and doing a near-360 degree spin with it, apparently kiss it on the nose, and hand it to another man, as a large ground with lots of children cheers.
Sizemore said the man was violating a rule by how he handled the turtle, saying that turtles can't be slammed on the ground, and that kissing the turtle on those nose wasn't a good idea. He says rules also prohibit the animal being be held to the ground with a foot or a knee, and restrict the competitors in other ways. There are other competitions for woman and children, but they don't involve grabbing the turtle's head.
Sizemore said the biggest danger in the event is to the men's fingers, and that while so far no finger parts have been lost, a few contestants have needed stitches.
Sizemore says the turtles, which are legally caught and brought in by some of the contestants, are either released after the event or eaten. In Indiana, it is legal for people to catch a certain numbers of snapping turtles, and to eat them.
Sizemore says PETA tried to get the event stopped last year, without success.
Gemma Vaughn, an Animals in Entertainment Specialist for PETA, says he had not heard of the event until recently. She says she was told that local enforcement had found the event to be legal, though she disagrees, citing Indiana law. She says snapping turtles, being cold blooded and have a slow metabolism, would spend a long and agonizing time dying after being injured in such an event. She says cold-blooded animals like snapping turtles may not show or voice pain, though they feel it.
After PETA asked people to call the campground and local elected officials, they started sending the request to their friends and calls started pouring in to Ohio County and the campground.
Friday evening, the Humane Society of the United States sent out a copy of a letter they had sent to the campground, asking them to cancel the event.
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