Woodside: 'Pig scramble' faces local opposition


A tradition at the Woodside Junior Rodeo is under fire. Dr. Bonnie Yoffe, former medical chief of staff for the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA and a practicing veterinarian, says a "large coalition of Woodside residents" and people from neighboring towns are organizing to try to stop an event called the "pig scramble," held annually at the Woodside rodeo on July Fourth.

The pig scramble "involves frantic groups of children chasing, grabbing at, and tackling terrified baby pigs," Dr. Yoffe, a longtime Woodside resident, says in a letter to be read Tuesday, June 28, at a Woodside Town Council meeting. "So far we have 26 local residents supporting getting the pig scramble banned and the number is growing daily."

Since the item is not on the council's agenda, the council cannot legally discuss or act on it. There are, as yet, no plans to put the pig-scramble matter on a council agenda, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said.

The Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County, which hosts the rodeo at its grounds on Kings Mountain Road, said in a statement that, "the safety and health of the animals and participants is a major concern. ... The Patrol and its members do not condone the mistreatment, or willful injury to any animal or person in this event, or at any other time."

The pig scrambles have been injury-free to both humans and animals, and it is the Patrol's goal to maintain that record, the statement says.

When asked to comment, Ken White, president of the Peninsula Humane Society, said the organization shares the concerns of protesting Woodside residents "both in terms of the potential for harm to the animals, and also regarding the negative message this 'scramble' gives to young children."

He said he hoped the Town Council "will listen to its concerned residents," noting that the humane society will have officers at the rodeo to look for any injury to or abuse of animals.

Longtime Woodside resident Darlene Batchelder emailed the council and characterized the pig scramble as "telling children that it is OK to bully and tease. The Germans have a wonderful word for this activity," she added. "Schadenfreude taking pleasure in the discomfort of others. The adults watching get a laugh at the expense of the pigs' well being (as in), 'Oh well, they're just pigs.'"

As an alternative, she said, parents could read E. B. White's "Charlotte's Web," a story for children of all ages about barnyard life told from a pig's point of view.

Jennifer Gonzales, a Woodside resident, called it "absolutely unthinkable" to have small children chasing pigs. "And the pigs, of course, are going to come out of this traumatized," she said.

"The Mounted Patrol serves the community. They rescue. They help. That's all wonderful," she said. "Chasing baby pigs that are terrified? That is not wonderful. ... That is wrong."

"Pigs do scream a lot," Peninsula Humane Society investigator Christina Hanley said in 2014. "Any time you try to handle them, their reaction is to scream. They can make a lot of noise even if they're not stressed. ... To (the Mounted Patrol's) knowledge and to our knowledge, no animals have been injured."

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


57 people like this
Posted by Eric Mills
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2016 at 1:25 pm

The California State Education Code (60042) requires instruction in grades K-12 "to promote and encourage kindness to pets and humane treatment of animals." The State Assembly re-confirmed that mandate in a 73:0 vote on May 3, 2016.

The Mounted Patrol's "pig scramble" scheduled for July 4 is a blatant contradiction of that mandate. As such, the event should be dropped. The Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Castro Valley has banned all such "scrambles" since 1987. Woodside should follow suit.

There's a 1982 "Joint Rodeo Policy Statement" from the Humane Society of the U.S. and the American Humane Association which states, in part: "Such callous disregard of our moral obligations toward other living creatures has a negative impact on society as a whole and on impressionable children in particular."

These baby pigs are already en route to the slaughterhouse. Must we therefore also torment and terrorize them before we eat them? How long before a kid gets a pig's hoof in the eye?

There's also a serious health risk. Back in 2010 a three-year-old little boy at a Texas rodeo got a mouthful of arena dirt during the "mutton busting" event, developed E. coli, and almost died, suffering coma, and heart and kidney failure in the process. (See Google.) The immune systems of very young children are not yet fully developed, and they are very vulnerable. And ALL rodeo arenas harbor E. coli. Parents be forewarned.

Let the Town Council hear from you! Piglets, kids and the general public alike deserve better. Surely there are more humane, life-affirming forms of "entertainment," than this.

As Tennessee Williams once wrote, "Cruelty is the only unforgivable sin."

Eric Mills, coordinator

50 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm

An alternative event is the greased politician run or scramble. Rules are simple - the local and state politicians are dressed in pig costumes and greased up. Local voters chase down the pols and try to hold them down long enought to get a straight answer out of them.

34 people like this
Posted by Susan Wyle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Eric Mills make some very important points in the comments above. In addition to the child he mentions, who almost died from E. coli exposure at the rodeo, another child did in fact die recently in Maine after visiting a petting zoo where he was infected with the E. coli bacteria. (Web Link) The Humane Society of America reports that there are thousands of cases each year of children being infected with this bacteria after visiting rodeos, fairs, and petting zoos. Imagine how dangerous the situation is when children are literally diving head first into the contaminated dust which contains E. coli from animal waste. So not only do we have a situation where the pigs are being cruelly tormented in the name of entertainment, but we also have a potentially fatal health hazard to which we are annually exposing our local children. I had the misfortune of attending the Rodeo a few years back. The pig scramble was one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen: the squealing of the tormented pigs is still echoing in my ears. These pigs are used three or four times in a row at this event, and by the second or third time they are shoved into the ring they are paralyzed with fear and cannot even move. Woodside is located in the heart of Silicon Valley - is this the image we wish to give to the world? Please let the Town Council hear from you, and please do NOT enter your chidren in the pig scramble!

19 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 28, 2016 at 3:00 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

The Mounted Patrol is the same organization that barred women from belonging to their "club". They were also sworn peace officers of the SMC Sheriff. They lost this special appoint because of their view.

[part removed.]

42 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jun 28, 2016 at 3:05 pm

According to the caption under the picture in this article "The pig scramble is a July Fourth tradition". "Tradition" ?Really?

Chasing frightened baby animals, grabbing them, pulling their legs, jumping on them is blatant animal abuse.

Frankly, Woodside should be ashamed of promoting animal abuse on a day celebrating the bravery of this nation.

33 people like this
Posted by terri
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 28, 2016 at 3:12 pm

When I first read about Woodside having a pig scramble I thought it was a typo. Woodside? The epicenter of Silicon Valley having a pig scramble? Surely we have advanced from these old and outdated activities, to something better?

Please know our environment has changed, we no longer have the bucolic areas of yesterday. Sadly today's environment has children being effected by e coli found on the ground. This is a dangerous situation which has already resulted in one known death and many cases of illness in children who have been exposed to e coli from farm animals.

The message that harming animals, in this case pigs, is NOT the message we want to communicate to children or adults. Pig scrambles have already been banned in many California fairs and rodeos, and have also been banned in several states recently.

It time for us to catch up with the times and embrace new forms of community engagement that our generation and our community is creating.

32 people like this
Posted by Robert DiMenna
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2016 at 3:37 pm

I agree with Ms Gonzales, there are many ways to celebrate the 4th that have some Positive Value. Someone should ask the children what they think would be fun, I'm sure they would have better ideas than this ridiculous tradition.

42 people like this
Posted by That's what I like about The South
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Jun 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm

I appreciate the views shared.

I'd like to add value to the discussion as well. Been on this big ol' bluegreen marble for many a decade. Seems like a number of posters, as professed animal lovers, may also be vegans and vegetarians, I bet. O'er the years I have enjoyed many a fine veggie and vegan dish. Here's a quick tip. Not a one of them couldn't have been improved with a little bacon crumbled on top.

Yup, t'is true.

Happy Fourth, 'Murica!


"this special appoint"? "torcher"? C'mon now, who's trolling who?

"another child did in fact die recently in Maine" Had to go all the way to Maine, to find a case that semi-related? Really? Good find, you found the needle in the haystack, the one case out of a country of 330 million. A year ago. NOAA says up to 51 Americans die from lightening in a year. Perspective, folks.

"It time for us to catch up with the times and embrace new forms of community engagement that our generation and our community is creating."

After you, ma'am. I'm sure the rodeo awaits your good suggestions. How about a bean bag toss? Call it Cornhole, in The South. Yes'suh, that'll sell tickets.

Web Link

26 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 28, 2016 at 4:03 pm

If the community speaks up and demands that the Pig Scramble event be removed from the Mounted Patrol Junior Rodeo or the rodeo will be boycotted, that would be effective. I assume this is a fund raising event. They need community support. It is time for the Mounted Patrol to pay attention to what is being said.

25 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 28, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Sarah is a registered user.

I am a physician and I am familiar with acute kidney failure cases that involved young children who got infected with E.coli after contact with animals at fairs, rodeos and petting zoos. During pig scramble children may swallow dirt that may be infected with E.coli. and may develop hemolytic uremic syndrome. Strokes, seizures and a perforated intestine are other dangers of contact with E.coli.

26 people like this
Posted by Ken White, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 28, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Ken White, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA is a registered user.

While the author of the article quotes me correctly, I am a bit troubled that taken out of context the last comment (made by one of PHS/SPCA humane investigators several years ago) can perhaps be mistakenly interpreted. So speaking once again for this organization, that to the best of our knowledge no animals have suffered any injury to date does not in any way condone the pig scramble. Rather, it merely explains why there has been no prosecution by PHS/SPCA under humane laws. The question for the Town of Woodside is not whether or not animals have been hurt; the question is whether or not the Town feels that this is an activity which represents the ethics and humane standards of the community.

26 people like this
Posted by Ken White, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 28, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Ken White, Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA is a registered user.

P.S.: By the way, PHS/SPCA's officer’s comments were certainly taken out of context. The full article (Web Link) includes the following:

"That's not to say that she looks kindly on pig scrambles. 'Even if animals aren't being injured, it is definitely stressing them out,' she said. Would she let her child participate? 'I would never let my child do that,' she said. 'There's a huge chance that someone is going to be injured. I think it's irresponsible parenting.'

"Is the pig scramble animal cruelty? 'It's a tricky issue, especially with rodeo,' Ms. Hanley said. California animal welfare laws 'aren't where they need to be,' and have gaps in defining animal cruelty, she said. And rodeos have lobbyists. 'I don't think that there's really any need for rodeos anymore, (but) it's an uphill battle because there are so many people who are lobbying to keep rodeo in California,' she said."

23 people like this
Posted by KatyFluet
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 29, 2016 at 12:42 pm

KatyFluet is a registered user.

Pigs are smarter than dogs. I doubt the residents of this town would be ok with a puppy scramble. Woodside should be ashamed to host this event.

21 people like this
Posted by Susan S
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 29, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Susan S is a registered user.

The pig scramble sounds terrible. Surely we do not have to chase and scare animals to have fun on the 4th. I must admit I have never quite understood the point of the rodeo, and this kind of ridiculousness is just an example of why I am not a fan.

23 people like this
Posted by Melinda B
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 29, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Melinda B is a registered user.

Mounted Patrol should cancel the Pig Scramble this year and for years to come. This is an unneeded, outdated and cruel activity that has been banned in other places. From watching videos of past pig scrambles, you can see kids grabbing and dragging pigs by their arms and legs while the pigs are running and squeeling. This cannot be mistaken as anything other than a terrifying experience for the animals.
To hold a fundraising event for children without caring about the treatment of the animals involved is abhorrent, and it's a disgrace that such an event is taking place in the Bay Area. I know many families who are refusing to attend this event. There are plenty of other humane activities that Mounted Patrol could hold that would attract more attendees and support.

25 people like this
Posted by Bet
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Bet is a registered user.

Sending appreciation to all who spoke up for a more compassionate community.

Taking a bit of pain out of the world releases a spark that makes the world brighter.

21 people like this
Posted by pcuvie
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2016 at 1:58 pm

pcuvie is a registered user.

With or without abusing pigs Rodeos are cruel to animals. The world is changing and the public is more and more finding animal abuse distasteful. Ringing is no longer forcing elephants to perform in its circus, Sea World will no longer force orcas to perform at its park in San Diego, The National Aquarium in Baltimore is going to put its dolphins into a seaside sanctuary for welfare reasons and the City of Buenos Aires is closing its 147 year old zoo because "captivity is degrading." Rodeos are one of those abusive events that needs to go by way of history as well. Finding entertainment from the abuse of animals is not one of humanity's higher qualities.

26 people like this
Posted by Palominogal
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Palominogal is a registered user.

How are kids ever going to learn empathy and compassion toward others, including animals, if participation in this kind of blatant animal harassment is not only promoted but encouraged? The world has enough callousness and indifference to go around without this kind of nonsense being held up as just good, clean, all-American, flag-wavin' Fourth fun 'n' games. It's not. It's animal abuse.

6 people like this
Posted by Bet
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Bet is a registered user.

I understand the pigs will be slaughtered after the "Scramble".

Am curious if they are from factory farms?

More violence on top of brutality already experienced if they were from factory farms is hideous beyond belief.

How can these acts be taking place in Woodside-a bucolic town well known for wealth?

8 people like this
Posted by WoodsideAmy
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jun 29, 2016 at 5:01 pm

WoodsideAmy is a registered user.

It never fails to amaze me with which the zeal of the self-righteous demand that the rest of the world take heed of their demands to change our ways and bend to their view of acceptability. Accommodation is only for the enlightened and those in the dark must be shamed (and damned) in public displays of atonement.

I'd like to draw to your attention the similarities between the 'anti-pig scramble' and 'anti-abortion' rhetoric and proclaimed logic.

Both claim that the activities must cease as the unprotected (pig & fetus) are irreparably harmed and terrorized.
Both claim that the action is barbaric and that we as a society must join them in utopia.
Both claim that the event is a choice and that there are more civilized options.
Both claim that the act is dehumanizing.

Isn't it ironic that Palomiogals' derogatory labeling of pig scramble supporters as essentially 'rednecks' sounds just like the labeling of anti-abortionists by the right-to-choose side?

The truly repulsive arguments are those about claiming to care for the safety and welfare of the participants (kids in a pig scramble and pregnant Moms). Wring one's hands over the potential for a child to be injured or contracting e-coli is precisely the same type of argument that the state of Texas put forward with their now (thankfully) struck down restrictive abortion laws. The Supreme Court recognized that the laws requiring hospital admitting rights and advanced medical facilities to perform abortions were a sham argument - so are the wailings about e-coli and injuries to children.

The fact that we claim 'rural character' as the soul of Woodside, yet have absolutely no idea of what rural really means. In fact many snort with great derision at the lowly rural Americans and their backward ways.

No one is going to change their position on the pig scramble, just as no one is going to change their views on abortion. Make no mistake however, both 'anti' groups have the truth on their side and are completely justified in any uncivilized actions that they undertake as their crusade is beyond reproach and their path is just. Any opposed to the righteous cause are beneath the lofty status and subject to the consequences of their ignorance.

Anti-pig scramble, anti-abortion a difference without a distinction.

14 people like this
Posted by Laurie Powell
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Laurie Powell is a registered user.

Let us create a world of compassion, not cruelty. It is unkind and unjust to commodify sentient beings who are highly intelligent, emotional and social. It is heartbreaking to think there are those who would profit from using other species for entertainment, and who would encourage children to treat other beings in this manner. The message is that it's ok to disrespect those who are different from us and it's ok to use others for our pleasures. Speciesism is no different from racism or sexism. As King Arthur said, "Not Might Makes Right, but Might FOR Right!" Real men protect. They do not frighten, use or abuse.

18 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Since the Town Council can take no action before this year's Mounted Patrol Rodeo,I hope those of you who attend will keep your children out of the pig scramble. The event harms both the pigs and the children. Rolling on the ground which is loaded with animal feces is exposure to E Coli. Chasing baby pigs is bullying and abusive. Our children know that is unacceptable, so don't put them in that situation. Please discuss this information with other rodeo attendees. You could also let the Mounted Patrol know that you would like your children to participate in animal friendly activities, not abusive activities. I think the Mounted Patrol can listen to the community.

10 people like this
Posted by Rene Rowland
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Rene Rowland is a registered user.

Treating children and animals this way is mistreatment and abuse. This article states that the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County does not "condone the mistreatment, or willful injury to any animal or person.." The Patrol condones accidental injuries, then? Why should we set up that kind of environment for children and innocent animals?

What Ms. Katy Fluet, a Woodside resident, said is so true. Neither Woodside nor any other community would bring their own pets to be chased down and terrified in this manner. It is a disgrace to the children, the parents, the council and the whole community. Why should we treat any creature this way, and worse, how can we teach children to act this way? As Mr. Mills said, our State of California education code requires that we teach the humane treatment of animals and people. This event is neither humane for the pigs or the children.

Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Just as individuals can make new and better choices anew each day, so can communities. Woodside, it's not too late to choose kindness to children and animals.

Rene Rowland, Educator
Los Angeles, CA

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Couple brings Chinese zongzi to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 5,776 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 6 comments | 1,372 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 1,244 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,074 views

Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush
By Stuart Soffer | 2 comments | 483 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More