STEPHENSVILLE, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin police will monitor a church’s weekend pig wrestling event after thousands of people signed an online petition expressing concerns for the animals’ well-being.
Capt. Mike Jobe of the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department said he doesn’t expect a large protest at the event Sunday, but deputies will step in if needed. He said the long-standing event hosted by St. Patrick Parish is not illegal.
“We’ll be monitoring the situation and assessing,” Jobe said. “I’m not going to have a standing army up there to protect the pig wrestlers. We’ll react to whatever presents itself.”
More than 42,000 people have signed the petition calling for the cancellation of the Pig Rassle in Stephensville.
The petition was posted by Global Conservation Group, an animal advocacy organization in Watertown. It claims that the animals are “punched in the face, kicked, body-slammed, jumped on, yelled at and thrown into a bucket.” The organization said the event qualifies as illegal animal fighting.
Among the people who have spoken out against the event is Shirley Manson, the lead singer of Garbage, a rock band that was established in Madison in the early 1990s. Manson released a statement requesting that the event be cancelled permanently.
Melissa Tedrowe, the state director of The Humane Society of the United States, also released a statement to express her concern.
“St. Patrick Parish’s planned ‘Pig Rassle’ does not convey the Catholic church’s spirit of compassion,” Tedrowe said. “Animals can endure serious physical and psychological trauma during such activities, and forcing animals to suffer for entertainment’s sake is wrong. The church should cancel this needless event and find a form of entertainment that is in line with Wisconsin’s values.”
Ken Bilgrien, a deacon at St. Patrick, said the parish doesn’t condone animal abuse. He said the event, which is part of an annual fundraiser, is fun for both human and animal participants.
“We fill the stands with hundreds of people. Are you kidding that our own parishioners would allow us to pound the pig in the head with a hammer?” Bilgrien said. “In 44 years, we’ve never injured a pig.”
The parish said the event has been cleared by the sheriff’s department and the state attorney general.
In accordance with the state’s pig disease-control rules, all of the pigs used in the event will go to market on Monday, Bilgrien said.
St. Patrick’s Pig Rassle was cancelled twice in the 1990s due to protests organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“In 44 years, we’ve never injured a pig.” Ken Bilgrien, deacon