Readings — From the November 2015 issue

PETA Peeve

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From a complaint filed in June against the State of North Carolina by PETA and other plaintiffs, including Beth A. Sparks, an adviser to the National Opossum Society who “has personally worked with 4,700 opossums over the last 21 years.”

Clay Logan owns Clay’s Corner, a general store and gas station in Brasstown. Over the past years, Logan has conducted the so-called Opossum Drop on New Year’s Eve. Live opossums have not always been used. In press interviews, Logan has stated that “it don’t really matter what’s in the box.” Prior events featured a road-killed opossum (shampooed, blow-dried, and frozen), a porcelain opossum figurine, an empty box decorated with photos of opossums, and a pot reportedly filled with opossum stew.

In April 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Possum Right to Work Act to authorize a license for exhibiting a live opossum at the Opossum Drop — provided that Logan met requirements for holding wild animals in captivity. This included treating the opossum humanely. However, the opossum was left in subfreezing temperatures for many hours, had injuries to her face, and was not provided with water. On April 25, 2014, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission issued an official warning of noncompliance. Within days, Representative Roger West introduced a second bill that effectively placed the Opossum Drop above the law. On April 14, 2015, Representative West introduced a third bill broadening the scope from Clay County to the entire State of North Carolina.

Exempting a special-interest group from prohibitions against the unlicensed, unregulated exhibition of opossums is not rationally related to any legitimate governmental purpose. To explain the 2015 act, Representative Pat McElraft reportedly stated: “We don’t need PETA coming in here telling this community they can’t do something.” This is not a permissible basis for creating a statutory classification.

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