Petition Filed to Stop Abuse of Turtles at “Snapperfest” Following Undercover Investigation of Cruelty

Posted on January 19, 2012

Animal Groups Urge Indiana to Correct Legal Snafu that Has Allowed Abuse of Turtles at Annual Event as Appalling Footage from Indiana’s Snapperfest 2011 Is Released

For immediate release

Contact:
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund

baby snapping turtleIndianapolis – This morning, the national non-profits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Best Friends Animal Society submitted a petition for rulemaking to the Indiana Natural Resources Commission, arguing that the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) misinterpretation of state law has allowed for illegal cruelty at Ohio County’s annual "Snapperfest." Never before seen undercover footage provided by the World Animal Awareness Society – WA2S.org at last summer’s Snapperfest–an event where "contestants" demonstrate their prowess by pulling the heads of live turtles far outside of their shells–reveals numerous acts of cruelty that are in violation of state law. However, the DNR has condoned these actions by stating that Snapperfest participants are exempt from anti-cruelty law under an exception for activities including hunting and trapping, because, so they say, the turtles were trapped prior to their mistreatment at Snapperfest. ALDF and Best Friends Animal Society’s petition asks the Commission to clarify that this exception does not and should not apply to the turtles at Snapperfest–which would render the appalling conduct at the annual event illegal. The petition was filed locally by the Law Offices of Lawrence M. Reuben.


Update: In undercover footage from last year’s event, a “Welcome to Snapperfest” banner appeared with Budweiser’s logo suggesting Budweiser endorsed the event. In response to outraged Indianans and people across the country, Budweiser has clarified they in no way support Snapperfest and decry the cruelty that takes place there. The Animal Legal Defense Fund received the following official statement from Anheuser-Busch.

“Neither Anheuser-Busch nor our local independent wholesaler is a sponsor of Snapperfest.  We had no knowledge of the banner until it was brought to our attention after the event.  For more than a century, we have prided ourselves on our reputation for treating animals with respect – from animal protection to animal rescue and rehabilitation to wildlife habitat preservation.”


Why are animal advocates and attorneys sticking their necks out for snapping turtles? The undercover video shot at Snapperfest in August 2011 and released today reveals:

  • Turtles held by their tails, which can cause severe damage to their vertebra and internal organs.
  • Turtles repeatedly dropped and thrown to the ground during relays in which contestants run while carrying them. 
  • Turtles’ heads pulled out of their shells and turtles held up by their heads during the “main event.” Footage shows contestants violently wrestling on the ground with terrified turtles in an effort to pull their necks out of their shells.

Recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally neglecting a vertebrate animal, as is done during Snapperfest, is a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana.

“While an exception to Indiana’s cruelty statute states that it does not apply to fishing, hunting, or trapping, it does not allow for wanton abuse of any animal after that animal has been trapped,” explains ALDF’s director of litigation Carter Dillard. “The Department of Natural Resources’ misinterpretation of this law has allowed the shameful abuse of turtles at Snapperfest for the past fifteen years–and would literally allow someone to torture a turtle, a deer, a coyote, or any animal to death, so long as that animal had been trapped first. It is time for this legal misinterpretation to be corrected and for the state to put an end to this pathetic event once and for all.”

Copies of the petition to the Natural Resources Commission and footage of the 2011 Snapperfest investigation are available upon request. Spokespeople in Indianapolis are available for interviews.

ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit www.aldf.org.

Best Friends Animal Society is a nonprofit organization that strives to create a better world through kindness to animals while building no-kill programs and partnerships that will bring about a day when there are No More Homeless Pets®.  For more information, please visit www.bestfriends.org.

World Animal Awareness Society – WA2S.org is a domestic 501(c)3 non-profit public charity, incorporated for the purpose of filming contemporary human-animal interactions and collecting non-biased visual data to share with the world. For more information, visit the World Animal Awareness Society here: www.WA2S.org.


81 thoughts on “Petition Filed to Stop Abuse of Turtles at “Snapperfest” Following Undercover Investigation of Cruelty

  1. Julie Balog says:

    We are completely encouraged and thrilled to see this progress. Thank you so much.

    Julie Balog
    Admin of FB page: http://www.facebook.com/StopSnapperFest

  2. Jan Turner says:

    Is there no limit to the pain and maiming that is inflicted on Indiana’s wildlife for the entertainment of a small percentage of its citizens? Thanks to ALDF and Best Friends for putting these atrocities in the spotlight!!

  3. Susan Gallion says:

    That is disgusting! That IS animal abuse!

  4. saunieindiego says:

    Please post names and telephone numbers of officials responsible and I will call and ask friends and colleagues to call.

  5. Kaye Bauer says:

    What WONDERFUL news. What can the public do now to put pressure on the NRC to ban this atrocity? LTEs, letters to the NRC, press releases? Many thanks to those leading this fight.

  6. rene says:

    This wayward practice is shameful, these poor creatures abused, terrified by a bunch of moron humans.

  7. John Russo says:

    This is the first time I have ever seen or heard of this event. Unfortunately it had to have a sponsor and Budweiser was the thoughtless company to be the sponsor to make a buck. We have a country full of geniuses who really work that cerebral cortex to find ways to harm animals.

    Maybe the original idea was for the contest and sport , if you call it that, but someone from the veterinary field needs to explain how this sport can injure this turtle permanently. Lets be honest not everyone thinks about then consequences of their action. Is the prize a case of Bud?

  8. Gerdie says:

    This is cruel, and whoever is doing this is ignorant and stupid!!! How would you like to be dropped, and tortured? Get a life!!!!!!

  9. I am still awaiting response from eight parties to whom I wrote a well-documented and researched letter before Thanksgiving. These include state and county health department officials, Indiana’s governor, and the Surgeon General of the U.S. My specific concerns involve the fact that snapping and soft-shelled turtles carry salmonella as part of their normal intestinal flora, and they shed it freely when stressed. So not only is this event unimaginably cruel to animals; it is unimaginably dangerous for the beer-drinking, corn-dog toting participants in this unhygienic and unregulated open-air “festival.” If it is a festival, it is a festival of cruelty and stupidity, and it must be stopped before it happens again.

  10. In the interest of maintaining credibility, I’d strongly recommend using a photo of a snapping turtle or soft-shelled turtle rather than a newly-hatched box turtle in this appeal. The box turtle is a terrestrial animal and is not the subject of the “contest” at Snapperfest. Snapping and soft-shelled turtles are used in the “festivities.”

  11. Julie Rogers says:

    This should be illegal and all those involved should be arrested. Taking part in or allowing and encouraging such behavior is nothing short of psychotic.

  12. Please, please, obtain a photo of a snapping turtle for your site. While it’s undeniably cute and appealing, posting a photo of a hatchling box turtle misrepresents your cause, and makes all of us who campaign against this abuse look ill-informed. See my blogpost, http://juliezickefoose.blogspot.com/2011/08/snapperfest-world-is-watching.html
    if you’re tempted to think I’m just a “concern troll.” I’m not. I want ALDF to look like you know what you’re protesting. We WILL stop Snapperfest 2012 and I applaud the work you’re doing. Please get your images correctly lined up with your cause.

  13. Donna Hart says:

    Please keep us posted on the progress of stopping this event – and let us know what we can do to help!

  14. That is one fine-looking snapping turtle. Thank you for posting a photo. Most people don’t think they’re anything but ugly and “vicious,” but snapping turtles just want to be left alone. Let’s hear it for the ALDF–defending the unglamorous. Thank you for all you do.

  15. RB says:

    Thank you for stepping up and speaking for these helpless creatures. This society is so barbaric!
    Poor turtles…it really takes a deranged mind to do these things.

  16. siann says:

    The people in this video are an embarrassment to the human race. Cretinous ignorant low life scum-bags.

  17. nikole says:

    People are so ignorant and cruel. I have a snapping turtle, he was dropped out of the sky by a bird who was trying to crack him open for lunch so my boyfriend took him home. People think they are just “dumb” “useless”… My turtle has personality. He recognizes people and even dislikes certain people, rushing the glass and snapping to let them know. These idiots are also lucky to come out of this unmaimed themselves. I have seen how fast a snapper can move….

  18. Michelle Peters says:

    Animal abuse (and child abuse) should be a FELONY; not a misdemeanor, across the entire country. Federal law. There should be NO EXCEPTION – let’s get this country out of the dark ages, and start behaving like a civilized society! I also wish there was no need for a court trial when events are recorded via video. Fact. Done. Over. No money spent. Throw the barbarians in jail. Wipe hands clean of them. This goes for the despicable factory farmers, etc. Torture/abuse = JAIL – for every perpetrator. No excuses. I don’t need to watch the turtle video; I already know these are not “humans” I would want to be around or would want my children to be around.

  19. Donna says:

    Thank You for taking this own and I hope that this is stopped …

  20. Jen P. says:

    Thanks so much for stepping in and helping these poor creatures. I understand many people don’t realize that turtles are highly sensitive reptiles. They do feel pain and fear. No reptile or animal should be put through this for the entertainment of humans.

  21. Pam Shaw says:

    Oh My God!! Have people got nothing else better to do with their sad little lives!!! They should feel utter shame!!! When are we going to see a world were an animal is not seen as something to ‘entertain’ stupid people or to feed there ‘Thirst’ to cause suffering? Someone has to find the courage to stop this now!!!!!

  22. Krista Elliott says:

    Holy hell, this is pathetic! “Hey, look what I can do to a defenseless turtle! I can pull on its head!” Stop it!!

  23. Myfanwy says:

    This display of, in want of better phrasing, ‘thickos’ hurling and wrenching a living creature around because they can’t apply their limited intelligence to something constructive for a community celebration is just sad.

    Please, please can someone suggest a more productive and positive celebration to entertain this hoard so that they don’t cause any more suffering. Perhaps something which raises funds to PROTECT the turtle. Then the festival would surely be an honourable one which Indiana can be proud of.

    For goodness sake – it’s like a primitive game of retrieving a rock from a fire, why don’t they just go wrestle the toast from the toaster with a metal fork like normal people for their idiotic kicks!

  24. Katherine says:

    As a caregiver for a Russian Tortoise, I am sickened by this display of stupidity. I wanted to reach through my monitor and take those poor turtles into my home away from all of that. With that being impossible please keep me posted as to what I can do to end things like this.

  25. Della says:

    People should be saddened at this abuse of an innocent animal. I am so hurt that anyone can sit or join an event so horrid and uncalled for. Harming of any animal for plain fun should have the result of severe punishment by law. We moved into a place that had a tank out in the building while freezing cold temps and went to throw it out and to our surprise was a snapping turtle almost froze to death. We nursed it back to health and planning to release it when warm temps arrive. He was small and now he has had major growth spurt. Please take a moment to think how you would feel if this treatment was done on something or someone you love. No animal asked to be born and should never have to endure the hurt others put them through.

  26. we tried to stop this horror last year and were thwarted by authorities who said the bad guy was barred. A friend got undercover footage. Still barbaric.

  27. Joan Polsino says:

    I, also, have never heard of such a contest and am outraged at the thought of it. What is wrong with human beings today? Those poor turtles!!!!

  28. Renee says:

    God Bless all those poor innocent turtles :'(

  29. Laura L says:

    That is disgusting and what an embarrassment, how foolish and stupid can we act as human beings? Where are the values and morals we learn in life? Has life come to this? What a sad human race. It’s pathetic and inhumane, very cruel and uncalled for.

  30. stephanie cauler says:

    I have never heard of this before and i was shocked and disgusted by these actions..and not at all thrilled with Budweiser promoting this event…
    are these people nuts or just stupid this is animal cruelty…let me pick u up by the neck and carry you across a yard and see if u like it…it never amazes me how stupid people are..and to make this a family event and a weekend sport….u people make me sick…

  31. B.Soto says:

    I only can think of the ignorant people that participate in this type of event. How cruel are those that encourage those ignorant. They all are sick people.

  32. Jill says:

    This is horrific. Doesn’t anyone’s mother teach them empathy or compassion anymore. I really think that humans are off the wall anymore. the whole world has gone crazy. What the hell is entertaining about this. I DON’T GET IT. THIS HAS TO STOP

  33. Laurie Koppenaal says:

    Stupid drunk people tripping over their own feet with a terrified animal full of salmonella no less. These are probably the same ones that will then proceed to use the port-o-potty as they gab on their cell phones, not wash their hands and kiss the baby!!! Disgusting and ignorant; need I say more?

  34. Cindy Christians says:

    Thank you sooo much for taking action against this barbaric practice. I can’t believe it was allowed to go on as long as it did. Anyone who would take part in something like this is a sick, cruel human being. If you need any more signatures please let me know. I first heard about this gruesome activity last year, it just crossed my mind and I decided to see when it takes place. I thought about starting a petition and was so happy to see someone had already beat me to it. I pray last year was the last time these poor, innocent turtles have to suffer for someones sick idea of what fun is!! Thank you for caring!

  35. Alexandra says:

    WE AT ANIMAL ARMY NETWORK ON FACE BOOK ARE HOPING THIS EVENT NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN http://www.facebook.com/pages/Animal-Army-Network/152139551521631

  36. Marge scott says:

    are they trying to catch up with China for animal cruelty,???. This from a CIVILISED SOCIETY,?????

  37. robin says:

    my name is robin reyna i think what people are doing to the animals it very curl hateful to do i think there should be a law against these things so to perfinte so people wont be able to do any more so it can,t to any more animals or are fish any liveing thing

  38. Anneke Andries says:

    indeed sick, dum, ignorant and cruel..

  39. Carol Guillemette says:

    This is totally unacceptable. These people should be treated the same way they treat helpless animals so they can experience how horrible it is for these innocent creatures. It needs to stop now!!!!!

  40. Nicki Stoneman says:

    These evil maggots need to be tormented & they will in hell! This must be stopped & hold these maggots to the fullest extent of the law! Throw all of them in Prison where they all be be tortured by inmates! Until a felony 1 is instated in all states this heinous act on God’s creature’s will never end. These politicians need to step up to the plate & put these maggots & all maggots behind bar’s for good.

  41. Grady says:

    The WAR AGAINST THE ANIMAL KINGDOM: will never cease to end because in part the way we raise children not to love and respect all creatures of God. Till men change their hearts and teach their children this and adopt a meatless diet it will never be changed otherwise.

  42. Lisa says:

    This makes me sick.
    There is something very wrong with anyone that would allow this.

  43. Elvira Acevedo says:

    This was totally uncalled for! These turtles did not deserve this. I hope that you were able to stop this abuse.

  44. Linda Sosa says:

    I am sickened every time I come across another way people have found to misuse and torture innocent animals. This is absolutely horrifying and without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. How can we help end it? I can’t even bring myself to watch the video – the description is graphic enough to turn my stomach. God bless you for the work you’re doing in defense of creatures with no other voice.

  45. ernest says:

    Sooooo, Can we somehow make sure there is no “snapperfest 2012″?
    Unbelievable.
    Well, unfortunately these days its very believable.

  46. carole morrison says:

    wtf is wrong with them dumb redneck hillbillies torchuring turtles like that. id love to take them idiots and lets see how far their necks will pull out of the bodies. its more than a misdemeanor, it should be a felony. u inhumanes are sick and f’ed up in the head and need some metal health and put in a mental ward. yall r really some retarded pathetic ignorant insane inhumans.

  47. Mary says:

    That is just one of the most putrid and cruel things I have ever seen What is wrong with these humans??? No more BUD!!! Shame on them for sponsering this horrible event!!!!

  48. Annie Wilczak says:

    In almost as much a knuckle-dragging frame of mind I find myself rooting for the turtles. I hope they clamp down on one of those troglodyte’s fingers; going to the bone and not letting go.

  49. tom connors says:

    This is nothing more than legalized, institutionalized SADISM! It WILL be stopped, however, & when I read the comments from my fellow commenters, & acknowledge the wonderful efforts by ALDF, it renews my hope for all innocent creatures. I love you all, & we will win!

  50. jeanie coolahan says:

    This is so sick and debase. What is matter with the “human” race….can’t these people find something else to do rather than abuse and harm these innocent animals?
    I am thoroughly disgusted with the human race.

  51. Robert Frith says:

    I am appalled to hear about this Snapperfest! I really hope ALDF can help stop this senseless cruelty.

  52. Lisa Neste says:

    I signed many petitions on care 2 concerning this as well as sent letters! This is outrageous that people would gehter around such a spectacle & call it family fun & entertainment. It is nothing but animal abuse & has no place in a modern society!! I’m glad to know ALDF is on this one, thanks! You guys rock!!

  53. Sky says:

    Please tell us how we can help stop this horrible atrocity.
    This crulety needs to be stopped now, before Snapperfest 2012 can even be planned.

  54. Margaret says:

    Disgraceful. Have humans nothing better to do than torture animals.
    Can’t share this quote enough:

    “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” Francis of Assisi

  55. bill miller says:

    Disgusting!!!! Welcum to Zindianner!

  56. Lisa says:

    Yes, I too would like to know if there is a petition I can sign to ban this “fest” and also end trapping and the fact that animals can be tortured after they have been trapped!!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!
    The egregious acts of man toward other living, feeling, innocent creatures is truly BOUNDLESS and clearly MAN IS INHERENTLY EVIL!!!!!!!!!!!
    These people NEED TO GET A LIFE and STOP ABUSING Turtles, etc.!!!!!!!!

  57. LaVetta Bowers says:

    I agree, The laws against animal abuse are way behind. Why are they taking so long for the courts to be acting against the people who have no sense or feelings about live beings. The people who have the authority seem to be dragging their feet. Animals see m to be put aside all the time. How do we get them to get interested in their welfare. Vote them out of office and other positions? Its very upsetting.

  58. Karen Gleason says:

    To all parties involved in SNAPPERFEST-
    This is most obviously a form of cruelty and all sponsors and participants should be held accountable. Budwiser should be ashamed of its involvement in these torturous activities. Animals should not suffer for our “entertainment”. Please do all in your power to ensure this event is cancelled forever and the turtles never have to suffer this cruelty again.

  59. Evie says:

    Riiiiight. And we are the superior ones because…??????

  60. joan leogrande says:

    What unreal bullsh**! i protest this make it stop and now

  61. Pat says:

    I hope all these idiots get salmonella and die from it. No pity here.

  62. DEBY says:

    WHY DOES MAN FEEL THE SICK NEED TO NEGLECT, ABUSE, TORTURE AND MURDER ALL OF OUR EARTHS ANIMALS ? PLEASE STOP THIS NOW. PLEASE PUT HUMANITY BACK IN HUMAN, PLEASE HAVE A SOUL. THOSE WHO INFLICT AND ALLOW SUCH MISERY AND PAIN ENJOY IT AND IT SHOULD BE INFLICTED BACK ON THAT SO CALLED HUMAN !.
    You can either turn sorrowfully or carelessly away from an animal in distress or summon the courage to run forward and help.
    We can judge the heart of a person by their treatment of animals. (Ghandi)

  63. Fendrayton says:

    Say what you will if you wish, but I would NOT step off the doortep to “help” ANY ONE of these participants if they were bleeding in the roadway. It would only be “payback time”, coz I am SURE this is not the ONLY cruel “fun” they participate in.

  64. Barb Hopkins says:

    With regard to Budweiser’s name being associated with Snapperfest ~ Subway sandwich shops claims they didn’t know who the recipient of the Subway Sportsman of the Year 2011 would be until after it was announced: Michael Vick!

    http://dogblog.dogster.com/2011/06/28/michael-vick-wins-subway-sportsman-of-the-year-at-bet-awards/

  65. DWAYNE KING says:

    IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR THE HUMAN RACE?

    THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE, THAT PEOPLE CONSIDER THIS ENTERTAINMENT – TORTURING TURTLES!

    SO SICK – THESE ARE GOD’S CREATURES!

    LET THERE BE TOUGHER LAWS AGAINST CRUELTY ENACTED NOW FOR ALL ANIMALS!

  66. Michelle Storace says:

    The SICK and ABUSIVE people are becoming more and more. I am SAD for the so called HUMAN RACE.I am in DISBELIEF.

  67. sara says:

    Where do I sign!?

  68. ALDF filed a legal petition, different than a petition the public can sign and support. We do not have a public petition available for this case.

  69. patricia says:

    INSANE, BRUTHAL, SICK, BARBARIANS!!monsters, inadmisble!!!

  70. Susan Green says:

    appalled this so-called ‘sick’ fest is going to take place again! What is it with these people, who bring their families/children to witness this! Trying swinging those ‘rednecks’ by their legs, drop them, wrench their necks – see how ‘macho’ they seem then!!

  71. Kim Diedrich says:

    Persons who would attend such an event are disgusting. Please write Budwiser and BOYCOTT their product (which we don’t need anyhow). Write the MAYOR of this city and tell him it must be stopped! My God, what do these people think they are doing to let their children grow up seeing this? This is animal abuse! Poor Turtles!

  72. Jason Cuesta says:

    i wish the madness of the abusing of ANY animal would stop because one day, when your going to want to see an animal, they will prabably going to be extinct, many animals are already endangered :(

  73. Alan Serlin` says:

    This is one of the most disturbing things I have seen in a humane report ! DAMN ! I thought I had seen it all, but this is just sick ! What makes anyone think this is OK ? This has to stop & NOW !!! DAMN !!!

  74. Disgusting. Animal torture should be illegal, across the board. No exceptions!!!

  75. Kara says:

    Can’t you think of something else to do in hickville? Schedule snapperfest during a NASCAR or monster truck event. That’ll keep those folks away. I have no problems with using animal products to our benefit for things we NEED (not McDonald’s cheeseburgers or 100 pairs of shoes). I do care that those animals are treated well. This event doesn’t fit in either of those categories. Shut it down.

  76. Kara says:

    Can’t you think of something else to do in hickville? Schedule snapperfest during a NASCAR or monster truck event. That’ll keep those folks away. I have no problems with using animal products to our benefit for things we NEED (not McDonald’s cheeseburgers or 100 pairs of shoes). I do care that those animals are treated well. This event doesn’t fit in either of those categories. Shut it down.

  77. Please do not accept this any longer, DO SOMETHING! This is an outrage and needs to stop, and the criminals brought to justice, from the animal abusers themselves, to the campground owner, to the government entities and public servants that look the other way. Snapperfest will not end on it’s own, caring people need to act. Compassion > Cruelty

  78. alex dodds says:

    PLEASE for the love of god stop this monstrosity!

  79. Elisa Decraene says:

    I am shocked knowing about this.

    How can people do that, and have the joy in doing such cruel things? I don’t understand!

    PLEASE THIS MUST STOP!

  80. Susan Ann Behar-Whitman says:

    This is the most cruel and horrible thing that these bastards are doing to these poor Snappers that have never done anything too these idiot morons, We have to stop this animal cruelty.

  81. Katrina Talbot says:

    This is totally barbaric and unacceptable. I don’t know how these people can justify this kind of cruelty for entertainment.

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