A video still of a man holding a snapping turtle by the next at a past Snapperfest.
(Ohio County, Ind.) – Local snapping turtles may rest easy as the controversial Snapperfest will not happen this year.
Snapperfest is a competition that features men and women pulling snapping turtles’ heads from their shell as fast as possible while avoiding being bit by the reptiles. The event caused a national controversy last year when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other animal rights groups called the event “turtle torture.”
“Since it began in 1996, Snapperfest has been a shame on the state of Indiana, and compassionate citizens from around the world have been up-in-arms about this pathetic event since undercover video of participants abusing turtles for a cheap thrill came to light,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund director of litigation Carter Dillard.
The owners of Ohio County’s Campshore Campground, which has drawn hundreds of people on Snapperfest weekend each of the past 16 years, have told the Indiana Department of Natural Resources the event will not take place this August.
The ALDF submitted a rulemaking petition to the IDNR earlier this year arguing that a misinterpretation of state law had allowed for illegal cruelty at Snapperfest.
In an August 1 email to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the DNR told the organization exactly what it wanted to hear:
“We have information from the owners of the campground that the portion of the event using live animals, namely turtles, will not be taking place this year. However, we will continue to monitor the situation. If you have any first-hand knowledge that laws are being broken or about to be broken involving turtles at this event, please share it with us so that it can be checked for compliance with the regulations.”
The DNR acknowledged that Indiana’s animal cruelty laws do apply to the actions against turtles at Snapperfest.
“We’re hopeful the campground makes good on its word to the state of Indiana to leave live turtles out of any summer events this year--and we will look to the state to take swift action against acting in violation of animal protection laws,” said Dillard.
Campshore Campground co-owner Chris Probst told Eagle 99.3 prior to the 2011 Snapperfest that the turtles are treated humanely. He said the turtles are set free afterwards.
“We do not kill the turtles. They are caught by hand. You can’t pull the head off a turtle,” said Probst, insisting there was nothing illegal about the event.
Even a major American beer company has been drug into the controversy. Footage from the 2011 event showed a banner with a Budweiser logo and the phrase “Welcome to Snapperfest.” The ALDF brought the implied sponsorship to Anheuser-Busch, which issued a reply stating that neither they or their local wholesaler sponsored the event.
“For more than a century, we have prided ourselves on our reputation for treating animals with respect…,” the company’s statement read.
As of Friday, Campshore Campground’s website still proclaims “Home of the legendary Snapperfest!”
Below is a Animal Legal Defense Fund video of Snapperfest: