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Is "Catch-A-Pig Contest" at Wood County Fair animal abuse?

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A peaceful protest was held Monday night at the Wood County Fairgrounds to end what some are calling animal abuse. The event is called “Catch-A-Pig,” and it’s raising some very heated debates. Proponents say it’s an educational experience for kids, while others say it’s downright abuse.

The premise of Catch-a-pig is children between the ages of 6 and 13 enter a muddy arena with free-running baby pigs. If they can catch a pig, then they can keep it. But the protesters are concerned the event is both physically and emotionally traumatic for the piglets.

“Pigs are actually as smart as a three-year-old child," shared Kylie Bailey, one of the protesters. "That’s smarter than dogs. Why we choose to abuse the smarter animal is beyond me.”

“I don’t think any animal- I don’t care what animal it is- should be mistreated or abused,” added Debbie Henderson, another protester.

The group has been working to have the event discontinued for 2 years, and say they have sent the Fair Board multiple letters from local and national humane societies and multiple veterinarians.

After viewing photos from the event, Dr. Nedim Buyukmihci, a veterinarian with the University of California-Davis, wrote, “being suspended by their hind legs made the pigs subject to injury, particularly damage to ligaments and tendons or even dislocation of joints.”

And physical damage isn’t the only concern.

“There can be a lot of emotional damage with a pig just like a human," said Bailey. "If you take a three year old child and put them in a pit of mud and you say ‘ok this is a game’ and have people who are bigger than them start to attack them and just like get on top of them. Swing them by their leg, that’s completely wrong and we wouldn’t accept that.”

Representatives with the fair say they have no intention of discontinuing the event, and it is part of a larger project geared to teach kids about responsibility. After the kids catch their pig, they then take it home to feed and care for it until December. The first week of December a pig show is held where they kids auction off their pig and get to keep the money.

Bill Kale, President of the Wood County Fair Board, shared, “this teaches the young people – in life and working, that they have get up and feed these animal night and morning. And it’s just like training to go to work in the later years of their life.”

The event has been a part of the fair for over 25 years, but the protesters say they have hope because multiple other fairs have removed similar events from their itinerary.

“I know my day and age, there was no hope," commented Henderson. "But I keep hoping with the younger generation, if we can educate them, maybe things will get better with the animals.”

The protesters stress that they are not calling for the entire educational program to be discontinued, just this one particular event. They add they will keep opposing the event until it is replaced with on where all participants are "willing and enjoying themselves."

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