Faced with a possible lawsuit from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, organizers of the controversial New Year's Eve Possum Drop in Brasstown, North Carolina, have agreed to forgo using a live animal for one of the first times in decades.
But as it turns out, the alternative might be even more brutal.
Event organizer Clay Logan told The Dodo that the opossum will be killed ahead of time in order to avoid the use of a live animal during the event.
The Possum Drop typically involves hoisting a clear plastic container with a live, wild-caught opossum in front of thousands of New Year's Eve spectators. During the countdown to midnight, the animal is lowered down by rope (akin to the ball drop in New York's Time Square), after which he is released back into the wild.
Animal activists have called the event a "public display of the mistreatment of an animal, plain and simple," noting that opossums are shy animals and that the rigors of public display could prove fatal.
In recent years, PETA has filed legal challenges to stop the event, with some short-term success. In 2012, a judge ruled in PETA's favor, preventing Logan from obtaining the wildlife capture permit required. A few months later, though, lawmakers usurped that ruling by passing a new law allowing the event to continue in 2013.