STEPHENSVILLE (WITI) -- PETA and others were calling for the event to be cancelled -- saying it's inhumane. But on Sunday, August 10th, St. Patrick Parish held its "pig rassle" event. The event brought in people from across the country, despite its controversy.
This year’s roundup at St. Patrick Parish included more than just pigs. Dozens of protesters were also present.
“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," Pig Rassle Co-Chairman Bruce Learman said.
Once a group is put into the ring, they're given one pig. After that, the wrestlers have 45 seconds to round up the pig and place it on top of a barrel.
"Tradition is no excuse for cruelty," Global Conservation Group President Jordan Turner said.
The Global Conservation Group is a Milwaukee-based animal rights group. Last week, Turner started an online petition to cancel the event.
“The petition received just over 60,000 signatures," Turner said.
Turner says in the pig rassle event, the animals are being abused.
"Pigs are being body slammed and put in a barrel. That's pretty cruel to me," Turner said.
"If there is any cruelty, anything here at all, everything will get stopped immediately," Pig Rassle Co-Chair Pay Rynish said.
Spectators in the stands cheered while protesters held up signs in the distance.
"This is a 'go vegan' sign. There is no difference really between, in my view, a cat and a pig. We're all sensual beings deserving of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Charles Frey of Houston, Texas said.
Those near the pig pen on Sunday said this is just a playful game.
"You can basically look at a pig and it'll squeal. I think they're well-monitored and they're watching them. I really don't think that they're being harmed at all," Tara Everts said.
Perhaps the pigs, parishioners and protesters will have to agree to disagree.
"It's very abusive. The pigs are squealing. They're in pain. They're scared," Tracie Brannan of Milwaukee said.
"They keep them all safe and we're all good," Paul Gostas said.
The church says it plans to hold the event again next year.
Organizers say the event usually helps to raise around $3,000 for the parish.