Thousands of people are signing online petitions that have surfaced in protest of pig wrestling in Indiana fairs and festivals.
The annual event in which teams attempt to capture a pig and transport it to a certain location within a mud-filled pen was discontinued last year at the Dubois County 4-H Fair after a swine diarrhea virus called PEDv affected farms across the United States. The 4-H council chose to cancel the swine show and all swine-related events to protect the animals.
The event won’t be back this summer amid a statewide backdrop of folks who say pig wrestling is a cruel and inhumane form of entertainment. Counties with petitions include Delaware, Grant, Harrison, Monroe, Noble and Whitley. As of today, the Delaware County petition has nearly 30,000 supporters, some from as far as England, and the fair board has canceled the event for this year’s fair near Muncie.
“Hog wrestling is in conflict with 4-H standards and guidelines,” the petition reads. “Animal welfare is a growing concern in this country today and warrants some attention during county fairs and any other 4-H livestock event.”
The petition goes on to describe proper care, defined by 4-H guidelines, as handling animals “in a very humane way” and “avoid stressing the animals.” This reasoning is present in the other petitions as well. The Harrison County petition, now with more than 17,000 signatures, was created by Tanya Tuell, president of the River Valley Crawford County Humane Society.
Tuell said she used to own a pig as a pet and said they are physically sensitive and intelligent animals. In the petition, she said “lifting and pulling pigs by their front legs” can injure the pigs because of their lack of a ball-and-joint bone structure; the front leg is connected to the rest of the skeleton by tendons and ligaments. Tuell is working on a statement regarding respect for animals that she plans to present to the fair board in Harrison County at the group’s next meeting.
It’s also an issue of legality, Tuell said. According to the American Legal Defense Fund, pig wrestling is a breach of a Harrison County Animal Control Ordinance, which states it is unlawful for anyone to “willfully or maliciously torture, torment, beat, kick, strike, mutilate, injure, disable any animal” or to “incite, stage or set any animal to fighting within the county.”
Dubois County also has an ordinance regarding animal cruelty, though it is less specific — Ordinance 1993-8 makes it illegal to “cruelly treat or neglect a domesticated animal,” which includes “inhuman beating.”
Ken Eck, Purdue Extension educator for Dubois County, said the event was canceled in 2014 because 4-H is trying to teach Youth Pork Quality Assurance — “the food safety, antibiotic use and animal well-being awareness and education program for youth pork producers ages 8 to 19,” as described by pork.org. Eck said those who are involved in 4-H should be shown how to care for animals in a way that follows these guidelines.
“It’s just proper industry handling,” Eck said.
Eck also said 4-H officials don’t want students or animals being harmed. Pig wrestling isn’t congruous with the values 4-H is trying to teach youth, he said.
The Dubois County Humane Society does not have an official stance regarding pig wrestling, but has not yet had the issue raised in the community, DCHS President Andrea Hedinger said in an email to The Herald.
“While we primarily concentrate on the welfare of dogs and cats within Dubois County, we of course like to ensure the safety and welfare of all animals is always being considered,” Hedinger wrote.
For now, Dubois County 4-H Fair leaders are not planning to have pig wrestling in the future, Eck said. No particular event has been chosen to replace it, but the fair board is always open to suggestions by the community.
“We want to have a fun fair,” he said.
“It might be a gerbil or goldfish up to a hog or cattle, it doesn’t matter what the animal is. We’re just trying to make sure that we teach youth skills they need for life.”