Understanding Snapperfest

For those of you unaware of the event Snapperfest, in a campground located in Southern Indiana, you are not missing out. Snapperfest is a small festival that has taken place every summer for 15 years. The festival may appear to be normal, having several different games and activities, but what makes this stand out more than the typical festival in a small town is their involvement with Snapping Turtles.

The campground hosts a variety of different “games” associated with snapping turtles of different species. The men each take turns racing to grab a snapping turtle from a tub and then run back to their starting point with the animal. They then attempt to grasp the turtles head and pull it out of their shell. The women run a “relay” race carrying the turtles, often resulting in dropping them while running. According to Tom McPhee, Executive director for the World Animal Awareness Society, who has filmed the event to document what is going on, “I think that if the animals are being dropped when they’re run, I think there’s a really big bet that those animals are experiencing injuries”. This is the major concern for animal lovers and animal advocates globally, whether these creatures are injured due to the games or not. Tom also states, “From what I can tell, from what we saw, it’s probably not a really healthy thing. It’s not a healthy thing to have people cheering on this activity. It’s no different matter, though, from a rodeo. It’s the whole idea of running the animal back down and then putting your fingers where its head is and pulling out its head. It’s like “oh you can get your finger bit” it’s the danger factor”.

Last year Snapperfest gained a large amount of attention due to social media. Several locals had shared their videos on YouTube resulting in national attention of the festival. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the Best Friend’s Animal Society filed a petition to the Indiana Natural Resources Commission regarding a misunderstanding of the state law regarding trapped animals. The current law states that once an animal is trapped in Indiana you can basically do what you please, as long as the animal is legally trapped.  The public outcry of people opposed to this law would suggest that Indiana is actually condoning the illegal cruelty to these animals. When asked if the locals realized the awful things they were doing, Tom answered, “If the local community knew they were doing something wrong they wouldn’t be doing it. They don’t think they are doing anything wrong, the statue of Indiana doesn’t think they are doing anything wrong and that’s probably what is going to be debated with this petition that was filed by lawyers from the Animal legal defense fund (ALDF). The whole objective was to challenge the basic rules of what you can and can’t do with a captured animal that was captured legally. Can you do these things that are potentially going to be perceived as torturous? They don’t believe that they are violating any of Indiana’s laws”.

For now, it appears that Snapperfest will continue unless directed otherwise by the law. For those wondering what the public can do to stop this situation, spread the word. Tom suggests that people film events like Snapperfest so that the public can form their own opinions. You can also donate to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and also to Tom’s organization, the World Animal Awareness Society, to keep these organizations afloat. There are also several petitions that can be signed and shared.

Animal Legal Defense Fund: http://www.aldf.org/

The World Animal Awareness Society:  http://www.wa2s.org/

Special thanks to Tom McPhee to speaking with me on this matter!