Woodside: Rodeo official says pig scramble a gentler affair this year


Children caught pigs in the annual pig scramble at the Woodside junior rodeo on Monday, July 4, but it was not the spectacle of years past, according to the man who manages the rodeo.

Also new this year: people with signs out in front of the grounds of the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County to protest an event in which children chase pigs around a dusty arena and drag them back to a judge for a ribbon.

Except there was reportedly no dragging. In "a big change" in the instructions this year, children who caught a pig were told to wait for an older person to walk over, gently pick up the pig and carry it back to its trailer, rodeo chair Michael Raynor said.

Anyone who dragged a pig was disqualified, he said. And the scramble event for adults was out.

The pig squealing was reduced this year and the pigs were "a lot less stressed" than in the past, Mr. Raynor said in an interview. When they were returned to their trailer, the pigs did not back themselves into a corner, an indication of stress, but immediately returned to eating and drinking and exchanging grunts with their cohorts, he said.

The pigs this year and in 2015 were also categorically of a different type, being raised in the open and used to running around. "They're out in the pasture. They run all the time," Mr. Raynor said. "They've very adept at dodging and moving around."

"If you go up to them slowly, they're curious and they're a lot easier to catch," he said.

The pig scramble is also under different management. "I like people that love their animals," Mr. Raynor said.

While the children were well behaved, three parents were told to leave the arena because they weren't being gentle with the pigs, Mr. Raynor said.

A group protested the event, holding up signs in support of compassion and kindness. "Sixteen of us were there, with our signs and fliers," said Woodside resident Belle Stafford. "We got lots of support and definitely increased awareness about the pig scramble event. We are hopeful about ending it."

"I was impressed with Michael Raynor, head of the rodeo, who came out to bring us all water, stayed to talk, and promised to meet with us," said Menlo Park resident Susan Wyle. "He was open to discussing alternatives to the pig scramble."

Asked about that, Mr. Raynor acknowledged his presence with the protesters. "Eventually, things like (this) aren't going to be politically favorable anymore," he said. "I kind of see it as an old-fashioned thing. It just makes you think of the legacy of it."

"It's a very strongly held tradition," he added. "It's a signature event. A lot of people come to do that."

Related story: Woodside Town Council hears debate on pig scramble.


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20 people like this
Posted by Eric Mills
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Kudos to the Mounted Patrol for the humane changes. But they're not enough. The pig scrambles need to go. Simple "tradition" justifies nothing, and certainly not at the expense of frightened baby pigs.

Relatedly, the California State Education Code 60042 mandates that "humane education and kindness to animals" be taught in our public schools, K-12. These pig scrambles are the antithesis of that, and send a terrible to impressionable young children about the proper treatment of animals. Woodside can do better.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP: Write to Mayor Deborah Gordon and the Town Council, demanding that the pig scrambles be dropped from the program.

Nor is Woodside the only area to feature these abusive events. Many other rodeos throughout the state do likewise and worse: "mutton busting," "chicken scrambles," "steer dressing," "wild cow milking contests," et al.

Legislation is in order. All state legislators may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.

As The Lorax says, "If somebody like YOU doesn't care a whole, awful lot, then nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Thanks for caring.

Eric Mills, coordinator
email -

14 people like this
Posted by Susan Wyle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 5, 2016 at 6:54 pm

While I am delighted to hear of the changes in the pig scramble, the footage from the CBS Channel 5 news clearly shows children dragging the pigs by their back legs, and two friends who were at the rodeo said that they saw Mounted Patrol members kicking at baby pigs who had hidden under the trailer to try to escape the scramble. This is still an event which is not acceptable - there are many other contests which could be devised for children on the 4th of July which do not involve the traumatization of the pigs, even if by children who are disqualified too late. The pig scramble has been banned in rodeos and county fairs all over the country and is now illegal in the state of Minnesota. It really is time for Woodside to ban this outdated and cruel event!

4 people like this
Posted by absudity
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Jul 5, 2016 at 6:55 pm

oh puh-leezzzze!

And our dogs shouldn't have to face the humiliation of having a leash. Our horses shouldn't be beasts of burdens carrying our fat a**s around the trails. We shouldn't wear fur or leather. Cats should be allowed to spray wherever, and on and on!

13 people like this
Posted by Bet
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Bet is a registered user.

I am deeply moved that the caring actions of a few dedicated individuals were sufficient to create necessary change. I believe that the decreased stress reactions of the pigs will be mirrored in calmer children. Small children identify with helpless animals and when the animals are better cared for children feel safer.

Maybe the Woodside Rodeo next year will serve vegetarian and vegan hot dogs for the newly more aware Independence Day revelers 🌍🇺🇸!

10 people like this
Posted by ann
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Many thanks to those working for awareness of animal welfare.

I can appreciate the value of tradition. What is less persuasive is argument claiming that grabbing, squeezing, pulling limbs, terrifying animals etc. is not what it is.

If you believe that tradition permits--even encourages--this event, then do so acknowledging that it is painful, cruel, and gratuitous.

To do otherwise--to claim that it is "pig playtime"-- is Orwellian logic at its finest.

7 people like this
Posted by Bet
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Bet is a registered user.

To Puh-leeze

I believe that what is suggested is that compassion for the feelings of all sentient beings is not only desireable but attainable.

14 people like this
Posted by pcuvie
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 7:54 pm

pcuvie is a registered user.

As a Woodside Rodeo attendee who had never seen a pig scramble I was more than surprised that the pigs were babies. It was also quite clear from their behavior that the piglets didn't like the scramble. They were used three different times with three different age groups. When the piglets were let out of the trailer they all huddled together in the arena, which is what animals do when they are afraid. However, after being chased by two different sets of kids, the third time the piglets were let out of the trailer they ran for cover under the trailer and it took some time for the rodeo folk to pull them out. In fact once a piglet was pulled from under the trailer the rodeo folk had to hold them in the arena, until all the piglets could be pulled out, so they wouldn't run back under the trailer. The fact that the piglets ran under the trailer - to avoid being chased, grabbed at and jump on - was pretty clear evidence the piglets were communicating their distaste for, and fear of, the pig scramble event.

12 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 8:00 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

I wonder where the children who were photographed during the year's Mounted Patrol Junior Rodeo pig scramble are going to school . In most schools children are taught that bullying is unacceptable. In most families that I know of, children are taught to be kind to animals. The children at the pig scramble look like horrible people who are allowed to bully and mistreat animals.
What is wrong with their parents to put the children in a situation where animal abuse is encouraged. Dragging animals by one leg, holding an animals upside down by its hind legs. The new photographer was there to film the animal abuse.
It can not be allowed to continue.
The pig scramble is illegal is some states and in many rodeos the pig scrambles are no longer events.
Let's get into modern times, Woodside.
No more pig scramble!!

8 people like this
Posted by Nan
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Jul 5, 2016 at 8:06 pm

It's time for the Pig Scramble to end. We shouldn't treat animals that way and certainly shouldn't teach our children it is ok. Let's make the change, Woodside.

10 people like this
Posted by DoGooder
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 5, 2016 at 9:31 pm

DoGooder is a registered user.

This article portrays the pig scramble as harmless entertainment for kids, and tries to assure us that any element of cruelty is gone. If you read between the lines, you can see that it's obvious the inherent cruelty of using baby animals, who are helpless to defend themselves, is and always will, still be there. A few moments of "fun" for kids, at the pigs expense, is what this is about. It's bullying,plain and simple. Don't give up, brave protestors!

8 people like this
Posted by Turtle2Pond
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 9:35 pm

The changes are appreciated but do not go far enough to recognize that what you are ultimately teaching is that animals are "things" or toys. The alternative is for children to learn how to empathize with other creatures and to treat them with respect. An alternative would be for a rescue to bring a pig for the children to see and visit. They can learn about the pig's remarkable intelligence no different from that of a dog.

The adults in the situation know very well these pigs will end up being sent to slaughter so what does it say about our society that we "play" with creatures which we terrorize and kill?

6 people like this
Posted by Laurie Powell
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Laurie Powell is a registered user.

If we want to teach children to feel empathy for others, we must teach them to care about all beings, not just those of our own species (or race, gender, religion or nationlity.) Let's focus on our similarities, not our differences... and include all sentient beings in our circle of care, compassion and justice.

8 people like this
Posted by Menlo Oberver
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 5, 2016 at 11:37 pm

The true nature of our character is revealed in how we treat the weak and the defenseless. Animal cruelty is a heinous crime that is symptomatic of self loathing. We humans have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. This means that we should be kind to animals and we should set a good example for our children. If we teach them kindness then they will develop empathy which will make them better people and prepare them to make the world a better place to live.

6 people like this
Posted by lorien
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Jul 5, 2016 at 11:56 pm

While I appreciate Michael Raynor's apparently sincere attempt to create a "kinder, gentler" Pig Scramble, the fact is that the footage of this year's event that was captured by a KPIX reporter shows that children did, in fact, grab squealing piglets by their hind legs during the melee. There are also eyewitness accounts by observers of rodeo hands kicking some of the piglets to get them to come out from the safe haven of their transport trailer. These pigs are not toys and there are so many great ways for kids to interact with animals other than chasing and harassing them. We would never encourage children to do this with puppies. One girl contestant commented on the news clip that she treats her animals (pets) at home well but there was no reason to treat the pigs this way since she didn't know them. This is a "legacy" that has no value and so is not worth preserving. Thanks to the work of many ethicists, biologists, veterinarians, lawyers, and animal rights activists the tide is rapidly turning in favor of greater protections and humane treatment of all animals - farm animals, wild animals and those in zoos and aquaria.

6 people like this
Posted by Melinda B
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 6, 2016 at 8:45 am

Melinda B is a registered user.

There are plenty of other hands-on events they could hold that would set a better example for how children treat animals. My family and friends boycotted the event this year but I saw the CBS news footage.
-One girl/past interviewed said "Children differentiate between that. You don't do that to a family dog but it's ok to do that once a year to a pig you've never met." That is terrible and that is exactly what this event is teaching kids! You wouldn't torture your family pet but you can come bully/ torture a pig once a year in a pig scramble!
-Kids were holding and dragging the pigs by their hind legs. (You can see their legs twisting, in one shot, someone is holding a pig upside down by its legs.)

It sounds like the event organizers want to listen to the community - please just ban the pig scramble. It will only continue to bring negative attention to your organization and the town of Woodside. It's a disgrace that such a backward event continues in the area.

5 people like this
Posted by Eric Mills
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2016 at 10:45 am

The "pig scrambles" and other non-sanctioned events need to be dropped from the rodeo program.

Express your concerns to Mayor Deborah Gordon and the Woodside Town Council. Members: Daniel Yost, Chris Shaw, David Tanner, Tom Livermore, Anne Karsten, Peter Mason.


5 people like this
Posted by SherMich
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2016 at 12:33 pm

SherMich is a registered user.

Truly, any animal, including a pig or a human, would not want to be dragged out against her will, chased by throngs of people, grabbed, held against her will (and dragged or raced with). Our consciousness is evolving as we recognize the abilities of beings who appear different from us to feel pain and fear, as well as joy and connection. I agree completely with Mr. Raynor that this "event" is on it's way out. Throughout history, we have realized that many 'traditions' are actually oppressive, violent, and/ or unethical. I applaud the concerned citizens of Woodside and all involved in attempting to teach compassion to children through example. Bravo! With amazing human ingenuity, I'm sure an even better event, or 'tradition', will be born.

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

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