Campaigners fight to end ‘cruel’ hog-wrestling competitions

Opponents say pigs are dragged around a muddy arena while being kicked and slapped - a day before they go to slaughter

 

Rachael Revesz
New York
Friday 05 August 2016 14:20 BST
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Teams compete to grab the pig and put it in the barrel
Teams compete to grab the pig and put it in the barrel

Campaigners are fighting to ban hog wrestling, a popular carnival sport in certain states where competitors chase pigs around an arena trying to load the animal into a barrel in the fastest possible time.

Two events were recently cancelled under mounting pressure. Now People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is campaigning to end the spectacle for ever, protecting the pigs from what they say is a terrifying experience.

Organisers insist the animals are looked after properly.

However, Gemma Vaughan, a PETA cruelty case worker, said: "When pigs are being violently attacked without means of defence or escape amid screaming crowds, it is torture of these animals."

She said pigs can even break their backs as they are thrown on top of or into a barrel.

The event is best known in Wisconsin, Indiana and even in Pennsylvania, but two major shows were cancelled within 12 months in Wisconsin, including the Stoughton Fair in Dane County in July and the 44th annual St Patrick Parish pig wrestling event in Outagamie County.

One annual hog competition that is still taking place every year on 23 July is at the Caldron Falls Bar & Grill in Wisconsin.

On the Caldron Falls Bar and Grill’s website, it says thousands of people travel to see the spectacle.

"The porkers are clearly in their element, the competitors clearly are not. The whole thing ends up being a tremendous amount of fun," it reads.

Ms Vaughan said those involved "could be incarcerated" as the competition violates the state’s anti-cruelty law.

Dan, who works in management at the bar, told The Independent that their event last month raised thousands of dollars for a local multiple sclerosis charity but had been hurt by the campaigners.

Normally they have 100 teams, this year it was just 43.

"They don’t understand we have rules and restrictions in place. If you grab its ears or tail you are disqualified," he said. "They just put in there that we’re hurting the pigs. That’s bulls***t."


Utah Country Fair

 Utah Country Fair

He said he was confident the event would take place again in 2017.

"I do understand the points the campaigners are making. I'm an animal-lover myself, I’ve got horses and dogs and exotic pets, and so do my kids. None of us are into abusing or hurting animals," he said.

"The pigs make a lot of noise when they are chased around the ring. But that’s all it is, it’s just noise."

He explained that all the pigs go to market the next day to be slaughtered.

"It’s not like we are stealing anybody’s pets," he said.

Ms Vaughan said PETA will revisit Caldron Falls next year and if the hog-wrestling event does happen, they will look to take action, but would not confirm whether that meant legal action.

"Obviously we can’t rule anything out," she said.




 

"The conversation around its illegality is a fairly new thing," she added.

Sara Andrews, executive director of the Alliance for Animals and the Environment, told The Independent that hog wrestling is also specifically banned in Minnesota and Rhode Island.

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