The infamous ‘pig rassle’ event held by St Patrick Parish in Stephensville, Wisconsin every year took place this past Sunday, 10 August.
Despite nationwide protests and an online petition asking for its cancellation signed by almost 65,000 people, the pig-fighting contest was postponed Saturday but held anyway the next Sunday.
“This has been our tradition for 44 years. This is our big draw for our parish picnic. If we don’t have the pig rassle down here, we don’t hardly see any people come to our church,” said Pig Rassle Co-Chairman Bruce Learman.
The event, which raises around $3,000 for the parish each year, consists on groups of 5 or 6 wrestlers entering a ring together with one pig. They then have 45 seconds to pick up the pig and put it in a barrel.
“If there is any cruelty, anything here at all, everything will get stopped immediately,” Pig Rassle Co-Chair Pay Rynish said.
“Pigs are being body slammed and put in a barrel. That’s pretty cruel to me,” responded Global Conservation Group President Jordan Turner.
According to activists, pigs, who are complex sentient beings and smarter than 3-year-olds, are “punched in the face, kicked, body-slammed, yelled at and thrown into a barrel”.
“It must be noted that the essence of such an event –what makes an event entertaining for the public, is the distress that the animal feels at being pursued and manhandled into a bucket. Although the event has been enjoyed for 44 years, this is not justification that it is without cruelty,” wrote Catholic Online on their website.
According to many animal welfare organizations, the event is not only cruel, but also illegal under Wisconsin law. Wisconsin Chapter 951, Crimes Against Animals, strictly bans any fighting between animals or between animals and humans.
Chapter 951 also states that spectators of animal fighting activities will also be prosecuted and could face felony animal fighting charges.
After facing protests throughout the day yesterday, the church has announced it intends to hold the event again next year.
A similar event was held in rural Quebec at the beginning of the month which, according to festival official Marc-André Boisclair, attracted record crowds this year.
Boisclair defended the festival du cochon, or pig festival, which has been held every year for 37 years, saying that experts monitor the contestants to make sure the pigs are not hurt and that the money from the tickets ‘serve to finance good causes‘.
A petition asking the municipality of Sainte-Perpétue to cancel the festival was signed by over 18,000 people but to no avail.
“During this event, domestic pigs, as well as wild boars, are forced into an arena where participants chase them, catch them, lift and drop them in a barrel, put plastic rings around their necks, and force them to run through cylinders,” the petition described.
“Additionally, transporting pigs, throwing them into a strange environment, chasing them, grabbing them, lifting them and subjected them to the noises of a crowd cheering ineluctably cause stress and fear to these highly intelligent and sensitive animals. The combination of fear and physical exhaustion can cause extreme stress and fatigue for the animals, who, in severe cases, could collapse and even die. This risk is compounded by the fact that these events take place during the heat of the summer. High temperatures and humidity can cause further stress to pigs who, unlike humans, do not have sweat glands and are therefore more at risk of heat stress and heat stroke.
“It is also likely that pigs (and other farmed animals) used in these types of events are prevented from eating and even drinking for some length of time before the events in order to avoid or limit the release of vomit, urine and feces — “by-products” of stress and fear, which could deter potential participants from registering.”