Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Testosterone Poisoning

Some of you may remember a similar picture from an earlier post, Pancake in the Creek. It is a spiny soft-shelled turtle, formal name Apalone spinifera. This one is small, just a baby compared to his cousins and the more commonly known snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina.

Earlier this week, I read a post on Julie Zickefoose's blog, "Snapperfest: The World Is Watching," about a community gathering in Ohio County, Indiana, during which otherwise grown men (and women) take part in an activity to prove their masculinity. Yeah, sure. See the video on Julie's post or here.

Both soft-shell and common snapping turtles are put into a trough, the contestant runs up to the trough, pulls a turtle out by its tail and runs back to a mat. There, against the stop watch, he shoves his hand into the turtle's shell, pulls out its head then grabs it around the neck, holding it up proudly for the cheering crowd to see. If the contestant's effort is not successful and the turtle manages to bite his finger, someone is designated to step in, kill the turtle so the contestant's finger can be retrieved. In these cases, of course, it is the turtle that dies due to the man's  contestant's poor judgement.

I am surmising that this amoral and cruel contest was born out of a bar bet. We all know that on more occasions than we care to admit, grown men get so caught up in proving their manhood that the testosterone/alcohol mixture takes over, they overdose and do stupid things. This must've been an activity invented by men sitting around; bored and full of beer, they dared each other to prove their manhood -- 

"Hell, you ain't got no balls unless you can pull a snapper's haid out of its shell." 

And so a "community tradition"  came into being. 
The people of the community would have you believe that outsiders are interfering, trying to destroy a part of their "culture." This year was the 15th annual renewal of this event. Does fifteen years constitute a cultural tradition? Really?

The people of the region will probably also have you believe that the turtles aren't harmed by this activity. Watch that tape and ask yourself whether you, your child, your cats or dogs, or any living thing should be treated the way those so-called adult males are treating those turtles. Is this what it takes to be considered a man? Is this what is required in that "culture" for a grown-ass man to prove his worth? 

Shit, just when I'd thought I'd left that sort of intellectual pygmy behind, I find it's still just beyond my back door.

Photo of "Spiny Snapper" by Gloria Degitz
The photo above was sent to me by a friend who's aware of my interest in turtles. It was taken by a photographer in Hannibal, Missouri who saw this turtle walking up the sidewalk in front of her home. Her name is Gloria Degitz.
Please, check out her beautiful wildlife photography at the Hannibal Alliance Art Gallery.   


dive said...

Somebody ought to sneak into that "community" and say "Hell, y'all ain't a real man unless you can stick yer pecker in a snappin' turtle's shell." Perhaps they'd try it and get what they deserved.

My friend Lynne (not the blogger) runs Norfolk's Chelonia Rescue Centre Tortoises and turtles) and I've spent many an hour sitting on her back porch and chatting over coffee, accompanied by the sound of clonking from the pens in yer yard (tortoises are so sex mad they make rabbits look celibate).

Speedway said...

I'm just a tortoise neophyte, having gotten Ms. Turtle in a short custody battle --

C: "Can I have Turtle?"
Me: "But I love her, too. I take care of her."
Short pause.
C: "OK, you can have her."

We figure she's between 40-50 yrs old. Carl and I laughed that we'd have to put her custody arrangements in our wills.

She is as bright-eyed and intelligent as a tortoise needs to be. His 2 turtles had the run of his house. When he was gone for a couple weeks, they'd hear the sound of him in the kitchen, at which point he'd hear them "scoot-scoot-scotching" across the floor for a slice of cantelope.

I love those dark eyes and, consequently, can't fathom why anyone else would "disrespect" any of her kind in such a thoughtless manner, as those do at "Snapperfest."

One of the comments on Julie's blog shows a response he got from the governor's office. Apparently, those folks are being watched, don't appear to be doing anything illegal. I guess no matter what, you just can't legislate against stupid and heartless.

dive said...

Sheesh! You can legislate against 'em if you're in England. Over here they'd be prosecuted for animal cruelty. No messing. The public here turn into a rampaging mob with torches and pitchforks at the merest hint of anyone even giving an animal a funny look.
Some woman was caught on CCTV a few months back tipping a cat into a waste bin (it was unhurt). The tabloids screamed for blood and she was almost lynched. I think she's still in hiding after getting a hefty fine (and having her home trashed by the mob).
Tortoises and turtles are beautiful, gentle creatures (even the snappy ones only snap for a reason). I'm glad yours is well looked after.

Speedway said...

Apparently, the event has been undergoing some "behavior modification" to stay with legal guidelines. I noticed in videos that the turtles are no longer pounded to the ground by their tails, nor are their shells beaten. Also, the letter stated that only common snapping turtles were used. The soft-shelled species was shown in other videos. Unlike the common snapper, they have soft,flexible shells, which I think would make them more likely to be injured.

No matter, it's stupid, unthinkingly cruel behavior. It's time for a new law. Here's the section of the comment in the response from the Governor which, in effect made "Snapperfest" a legal, if cruel event.

"Many individuals who have voiced objection to Snapperfest point to the animal cruelty laws found in Indiana Code 35-46-3. However, that law is not applicable in this instance because it provides an exemption for wild animals that are legally taken and possessed under the authority of Indiana Code 14-22." I guess that means that something I wouldn't be allowed to do to my cat, or to a human, I can commit against a wild animal.

Yeah, sure, that makes just all kinds of sense, doesn't it?

dive said...

The law is an ass.
Of course, if it was a wild ass we could legally do what the hell we want to it.
Love your turtle. Help tip the balance back toward sanity.