“Pig rassle” goes on as planned; but now, PETA calls on church to make this year’s event its last
HORTONVILLE, Wis. (WITI) — Despite calls from PETA and other animal activists for the event to be cancelled, St. Patrick Parish -Stephensville in Hortonville, Wisconsin last weekend held its “pig rassle” event. The event on Sunday, August 10th brought in people from across the country, despite its controversy. A church official says this has been the church’s tradition for 44 years — but PETA is now calling for St. Patrick Parish to make this year’s “pig rassle” event its last. Meanwhile, another animal rights organization says it is filing a formal complaint.
Dozens of protesters were present at the church during the event.
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.
Church officials said if there was to be any sort of cruelty, the event would be stopped immediately. Those near the pig pen on Sunday said this is just a playful game.
Organizers say the event usually helps to raise around $3,000 for the parish.
Now, PETA says video footage of cruelty to pigs during the “pig rassle” has prompted PETA to call on the church to make this year’s event its last.
PETA Director of Christian Outreach and Engagement Sarah Withrow King was one of tens of thousands of people who wrote to Deacon Ken Bilgrien last week to ask him to cancel the cruel event—and in a letter sent on Thursday, August 14th, King points to the egregiously unchristian behavior caught on PETA’s video: Pigs scream in terror as participants jump on, tackle, and drag them around a muddy arena. One pig is seen desperately trying to climb out of the muddy pen, and another limps away after being dropped. Pigs used for the event were left in the blistering sun with no food or drinkable water for hours.
“Such unkindness toward God’s creatures is completely contrary to Jesus’ teachings of compassion for the meekest among us. The conduct in your parish’s name last Sunday showed none of the respect or gentleness toward these pigs that the Church teaches that we owe them, and surely the parish can find other ways to raise funds than by subjecting animals to such a spectacle of needless suffering,” King writes.
PETA, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way,” says it hopes the church will adopt a policy of featuring only humane activities with willing human participants in future events.
The letter written to Deacon Ken Bilgrien is as follows:
Dear Deacon Bilgrien,
As a fellow follower of Jesus and PETA’s director of Christian outreach and engagement, I am contacting you again to ask you to make last Sunday’s cruel “Pig Rassle” the last one ever held by St. Patrick Parish.
Eyewitness information provided to PETA indicates that the animals used this year were crammed into pens with little or no access to shade from the scorching sun, potable water, or food all day in the summer heat. And video footage of the event shows pig after pig screaming as they were wrenched in headlocks, tackled, and dragged by their hind legs and had their heads forced into deep mud. All the pigs were obviously terrified, as grown men and screaming children lunged at and jumped on them and as attendees hollered from all directions. The pigs were so exhausted and stressed by these ordeals that they gasped through their mouths, and it took workers minutes in some cases even to advance the “wrestled” pigs a short distance back into a pen. One pig tried in vain to escape the pen as five men closed in, and another limped after having been dropped. After the event, pigs’ backs were lacerated, undoubtedly from the fingernails of people desperately trying to grab hold of them.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs, “Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute … it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation. Animals are God’s creatures. … Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. … It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”
Such unkindness toward God’s creatures is completely contrary to Jesus’ teachings of compassion for the meekest among us. The conduct in your parish’s name last Sunday showed none of the respect or gentleness toward these pigs that the Church teaches that we owe them, and surely the parish can find other ways to raise funds than by subjecting animals to such a spectacle of needless suffering. I pray that you will let me know that future Roundup Days will feature only humane activities that include willing human participants.
For all animals in grace and peace,
Sarah Withrow King
Director of Christian Outreach and Engagement
Meanwhile, an Illinois-based animal rights group called “SHARK” has said it is filing a complaint with state police and the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office.
The group claims the event violates anti-cruelty and animal rights laws, and child neglect laws.