Brasstown, N.C.’s annual “possum drop” has been a New Year’s tradition for the last 20 years, and will be taking place again this year, after a ruling in court was overturned earlier this month.

Apparently, this bizarre tradition was thought up by Logan Corner Store owner Clay Logan about 22 years ago.

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Roadtrippers reports, via a blog post on The Huffington Post, that the idea arose after Logan “conclude[ed] that the possum was Brasstown’s official mascot.”

So logically then, let’s drop it off a roof, right?

The event is certainly one of the most unique New Year’s traditions anywhere, and now attracts thousands from all over and includes other events like a vote for town’s “Possum Queen” and the firing of black powder muskets.

PETA has been all over the event, and sued Clay for it, claiming the event is cruel, and that “lights, noise and the crowd of people can wreck a possum’s nerves and health,” Associated Press reports via The Review Journal.

Originally, a judge ruled that Clay did not have “an adequate permit to display the animal,” reports Roadtrippers, but the ruling was later overturned and the event is now back on.

While the possum is reportedly handled rather humanely and not actually “dropped,” but rather, lowered down slowly in a glass case, the judge’s recent ruling in favor of the event still encourages the use of animals in “tradition,” which is the larger issue at the heart of this smaller one.

Many can argue in favor of the event since the possum isn’t being hurt, yet he is still being used in the name of entertainment and tradition – a sign that his life is considered invaluable, that one group’s amusement and nostalgia is more important than the fact that another life is literally being interrupted temporarily just to satisfy “tradition.”

It’s true – there are plenty of other industries where a multitude of other animals suffer severely, like factory farms, for instance. Yet, this isn’t about reporting and arguing against one and not the other. Rather, it’s about questioning and examining why people do the things they do to bring disconnection to light in all areas of life.

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To continue, if we call something a “tradition,” we automatically raise up an activity to a more acceptable level – which is the main problem when a “tradition” encompasses the use (and in many cases, the abuse) of animals.

Indiana’s Snapperfest was also called a “tradition,” where snapping turtles were taken out of a tank by a local man, who then ran around with it and grabbed the animal by its neck and swung it around and then slammed it on the ground. The end result? The turtle was pulled head first out of its protective shell.

This is obviously a more extreme example than Brasstown’s possum drop, but the underlying ideas are the same – that animals can be used in any manner we please under the guise of “tradition.”

We see this time and time again with other abuses as well, from bullfighting to cockfighting. These events can be labeled as people please – “tradition,” “annual event,” “entertainment,” “necessary to a culture” – but ultimately, we are shelving animals as commodities in these instances, when really, they are actually very important to the ecosystems they inhabit, in the case of wild animals, and should be given our respect, in all cases.

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As, ultimately, the question remains: How would we feel if we were in the same places as all the animals we use (and abuse)?

Last I checked, most people probably don’t want to be plucked from their home and shoved into a glass box and dropped in a crowd, so why do it to others?

Image source: Cody Pope / Wikipedia Commons