The pig scramble – a controversial but longstanding event in which children chase small pigs around a rodeo arena in hopes of catching one and being given a ribbon – returns to Woodside with the annual July Fourth Junior Rodeo, sponsored by the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County.
Opponents of the scramble plan to place themselves outside the gate of the Mounted Patrol and at "certain other areas" to display hand-held signs and possibly banners to rodeo fans as they drive by, protest spokesperson and Woodside resident Jennifer Gonzales told The Almanac.
The gates open at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, July 4, at 521 Mountain Home Road, according to the calendar on the Mounted Patrol website.
Opponents of the event say that pigs, when chased, are terrified and that an event like the pig scramble implies to children that it's OK to scare animals. Advocates say the pigs and the children are having fun. Rodeo officials have noted that instructions now require all people handling the pigs, including the children, to treat them gently.
Town Hall has been notified of the protest plans, as has the county Sheriff's Office through Town Hall, Gonzales said. "This is to ensure that there are no misunderstandings about our right to be in the public right-of-way on Kings Mountain Road and certain other areas for a peaceful demonstration," she said.
The protesters will be active from 9 a.m. to noon "to demonstrate our concern for the treatment of these animals," Gonzales said. "We simply wish to exercise our freedom of speech to let the Mounted Patrol know that Woodside residents would like an end to the abusive pig scramble."
Asked to comment, Michael Hutnick, captain of the Mounted Patrol, said the event's organizers are "doing everything that we can" to ensure the safety and health of all animals and participants. He noted the event's track record of no evidence of pigs suffering physical or psychological disabilities.
"That we're going to have protest is fine," Hutnick said. "This is a free country. ... We understand that protesters will be there and that's certainly their right to do that."