Investigation snaps back on annual Rising Sun festival

Published: Aug. 2, 2012 at 6:52 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2012 at 8:19 PM EDT
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RISING SUN, IN (FOX19) - A year long investigation by animal rights advocates into an event known as Snapperfest has caused organizers to stop using live turtles in their campground festivities.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced on Thursday that turtles at the annual Rising Sun event where contestants pull the heads of live turtles far outside of their shells, will not take place this summer.

In an August 1 email to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the DNR stated:

"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."

This past January, ALDF, along with Best Friends Animal Society, submitted a petition for rulemaking to the DNR, arguing that a misinterpretation of state law had allowed for illegal cruelty at Snapperfest.

Following ALDF's petition for rulemaking, the DNR asserted that the state cruelty law does in fact apply. The annual event that has been going on since 1996 created a storm of controversy last year after people found online videos of a man slamming a turtle onto a mat on the ground, grabbing its head, stretching its neck, standing up and doing a near-360 degree spin with it, apparently kiss it on the nose.

That particular video has since been deleted.

"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," says ALDF director of litigation Carter Dillard. "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."

Campground owner Tim Sizemore told FOX19 before last year's event that "the biggest danger in the event is to the men's fingers, and that while so far no finger parts have been lost, a few contestants have needed stitches."

Sizemore also claimed no turtles were harmed during the event.

To see the You Tube video of last year's event click here. WARNING: VIDEO MIGHT BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME VIEWERS.

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