Snapperfestthe turtle torture festivalwent on as scheduled, Saturday, August 20, in Ohio County, Indiana, despite extensive protests from animal welfare ornganizations. After a YouTube video of last years event went viral (second video below), a flood of protests failed to halt the abusive festival. The video, now removed, 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. Then he hands it off to another man, as a large crowd with lots of children cheers. NYTTS members were urged to write letters and sign petitions protesting the event.
Compare these two videos, the first a local TV news report, which concludes with: Sponsors tell us they’re so careful with the turtles that anyone appearing to hurt the animals is immediately thrown off the property. The second video, still posted on LiveLeak.com, is the original YouTube video. Judge for yourself. (Caution: sound level is loud.)
Below is an e-mail message received from Linnea Petercheff, of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, addressing concerns raised over the Snapperfest event. Again, judge for yourself whether the message adequately answers the animal cruelty issues. See the points to consider below the reprinted message.
From: "Petercheff, Linnea" <lpetercheff@dnr.IN.gov>
Date: August 23, 2011 2:30:36 PM EDT
Thank you for contacting the State of Indiana about the event known as Snapperfest.
Snapperfest is an annual event at a private campground in Indiana at which individuals are timed on how quickly they can capture a common snapping turtle, coax the turtle to stick its head out, and grab it by the neck without killing it and without getting bitten.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has investigated this matter, including a visit to the recent Snapperfest. The event organizer told IDNR that current contest rules prohibit individuals from smacking the turtles on the ground as was seen in a YouTube video circulated widely on the Internet.
To our knowledge and from our onsite observation, this abuse is no longer allowed at Snapperfest, and we are told the individual seen in the YouTube video can no longer participate in the event.
The IDNR has an interest here to the extent of ensuring that all applicable laws are followed with respect to a wild animal.
The common snapping turtle is one of three turtles considered a game species in Indiana. The other two are the smooth softshell turtle and spiny softshell turtle. All three are subject to state laws that regulate their taking from the wild. Those laws include the purchase and possession of a fishing or hunting license for anyone age 18 or older, plus a daily bag limit and possession limit. Furthermore, Indiana law prohibits the sale of all native turtle species.
Many individuals who have voiced objection to Snapperfest point to the animal cruelty laws found in Indiana Code 35-46-3. However, that law is not applicable in this instance because it provides an exemption for wild animals that are legally taken and possessed under the authority of Indiana Code 14-22.
Consider the following questions:
How do you coax a wild snapper or a softshell to stick its head out?
The contestant is expected to grab it by the neck without killing it. Does this suggest it’s okay to accomplish this task in any manner just so long as you don't kill it?
The current contest rules prohibit individuals from smacking the turtles on the ground. Is that all that is prohibited? What else do these new rules prohibit? Carrying the turtle by the tail? Holding it up and hanging it by the neck?
[T]his abuse is no longer allowed at Snapperfest, and we are told the individual seen in the YouTube video can no longer participate in the event. Has this been verified? This is a clear admission that the behavior of the individual in the video was abuse. If so, has the person been properly charged for animal cruelty?
Many individuals who have voiced objection to Snapperfest point to the animal cruelty laws found in Indiana Code 35-46-3. However, that law is not applicable in this instance because it provides an exemption for wild animals that are legally taken and possessed under the authority of Indiana Code 14-22. Is Ms. Petercheff telling us that a hunting license (Indiana Code 14-22) is a license to abuse animals? A legal investigation to test the validity of this exemption is currently underway. We will keep you posted!