VIROQUA — A Madison-based animal rights group has taken a public stand against one of the biggest attractions for Viroqua’s Wild West Days — pig wrestling.
The Alliance for Animals wrote organizers of Wild West Days in late May, saying it had conferred with two attorneys who are of the opinion that pig wrestling “is in clear violation of the Wisconsin Statutes.”
The Alliance notes in particular Chapter 951, titled “Crimes Against Animals,” which outlaws cockfighting, dogfighting and any other similar fighting between animals or animals and humans.
Wild West Days organizer Jeffrey Menn said his group conferred with Vernon County District Attorney Tim Gaskell and officials from state and other groups to be certain the activities were legal. He said the 2010 “Hog Wrasslin’” competition, set for Aug. 21, will go on as scheduled.
Lynn Pauly, co-director of Alliance for Animals, said the organization’s main goal is education. It has started a website, www.nopigwrestling.org, to bring attention to 10 pig wrestling competitions held in Wisconsin.
Not only does the alliance believe those who operate or participate in pig wrestling competitions are breaking the law, it also claims anyone “being a spectator” of such an event also is in violation of Chapter 951. Those prosecuted under Chapter 951 could face felony charges.
“There’s no necessity to have a gladiatorial display of human brawn against an animal who doesn’t want to participate,” Pauly said.
“Our intent is always education. We believe that people are compassionate and moral and deep down, after thinking about it for a while, people will see (pig wrestling) is not right.”
Gaskell said he reviewed the letter from Alliance for Animals and spoke with Pauly. He said he disagrees with the legal position of Alliance for Animals.
“When they specifically mention the examples, the intention is to maim or kill the animal,” Gaskell said. “With the pig wrestling, there’s absolutely no intent to injure the animal. I would not prosecute the organizers, participants or the spectators.”
Viroqua’s “hog wrasslin’” competition draws more than 1,000 spectators and about 30 teams competing in men’s and women’s divisions.
In the competition, a three-person team in a mud-filled pit attempts to grasp a pig and put it backside-first into a barrel. The team that gets the pig into the barrel the quickest wins.
Rules prohibit grabbing a pig’s leg or snout and putting the pig under the mud. About two dozen pigs are placed in pens near the pig wrestling pit to be used in the competition. Sometimes fewer than a quarter of the teams get the pig in the barrel; some teams barely get a hand on the pig.
Pauly said the Alliance for Animals is in a fact-finding stage, attending pig wrestling events, taking photos and video and documenting what occurs.
“What if it was a dog in that pen barking and whining when being chased around by six people?” Pauly said. “A double standard exists.”
Pauly said pigs have high intelligence and just because they are being raised to be slaughtered, doesn’t mean people can be cruel to them. She said Wisconsin is a haven for the activity.
“We’re not going to let this go,” Pauly said. “We’re not going to stop it this summer, but we’re going to keep after it.”