Opossum stunt outrages PETA

Agricultural fraternity asked to bar wild animals from its activities.
Friday, December 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:54 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Animal rights advocates want a national fraternity to ban the use of wild animals in chapter activities after two members at MU were charged with stuffing about 40 opossums — living and dead — into a barrel.

Philip Josephson, national executive director of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, said Thursday that the opossum stunt wasn’t sanctioned or sponsored by the fraternity. There are currently no plans for a rule barring wild animals, he said.

Authorities called it a bizarre contest: Opossum gatherers received one point for each dead opossum, two points for each live one. The Missouri Department of Conservation quoted fraternity members as saying they planned to release the animals into another fraternity’s yard.

Police received complaints about noise coming from the Alpha Gamma Rho house around 2 a.m. on Nov. 19. An officer reported seeing students gathered around a large plastic barrel that contained about 40 opossums, only half of them still alive.

Fraternity members Zachary Wade Famuliner and Adam Paul Thomas, both 19, were charged with two misdemeanor counts each of animal abuse and a single misdemeanor count each of illegally pursuing, taking, killing, possessing or disposing of wildlife. Both pleaded not guilty and remain free on bond pending trials next month.

Stephanie Boyles, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said she wrote this week to Alpha Gamma Rho, “trying to get them to enact a policy that would prevent any chapters from using wild animals.”

Vern Pierce, the MU fraternity’s faculty adviser, said Alpha Gamma Rho plans to sponsor educational events about proper treatment of animals for all fraternities and sororities.

“The fraternity has decided they are going to take an active role in disciplining themselves to make sure nothing like this happens again,” Pierce said. “You ask, ‘What were these two thinking?’ And it’s a poignant question. That is the point: They weren’t thinking.”

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