The pig scramble is an annual event at the Fourth of July Woodside Jr. Rodeo; small kids chase even smaller pigs and get a prize for catching one
The Committee For a Humane Woodside thinks the pig scramble is a cruel event that injures pigs. They collected nearly 200 signatures from Woodside residents in an effort to stop the event.
But the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County, which hosts the event, has a different take on this. Its leaders feel that the pig scramble highlights their Western values, and does not harm small pigs. Is this event in line with the values our town is interested in promoting?
The Mounted Patrol is a group of men who focus on promoting horse and equine activities. They are also available to help with local emergency services.
The Mounted Patrol has been around for 75 years. According to the Mounted Patrol Foundation website, its goal is to create a community that educates and supports the contribution of horses for work and recreation.
Terry Welcome of the Mounted Patrol told the Almanac that the pig scramble is a part of a Western tradition showcasing "independence, hard work, responsibility, and compassion for animals that help do much of the ranch work, and camaraderie."
However, a search of the archives in the National Cowboy Museum yielded no information relating to pig scrambles as a part of Western heritage. Also, there are no references to pig scrambles or pig wrestling in the 2017 Northern California Jr. Rodeo Association (NCJRA) rodeo schedules, except for the Woodside rodeo.
Nevertheless, Mr. Welcome of the Patrol has said that "the pig scramble is wholesome, a part of Western tradition that's being lost in this country." But it doesn't seem to have ever been a documented tradition.
According to the Mounted Patrol's website, the group is dedicated to promoting interest in equestrian activities. The pig scramble appears to simply be an event that the Mounted Patrol enjoys hosting.
The Mounted Patrol told the Almanac that it made the 2016 pig scramble gentler in response to complaints from the community to make it more humane for the pigs. It is clear from a video produced in 2016 that the Mounted Patrol did not make last year's pig scramble event gentle or humane for the pigs.
The Mounted Patrol claimed that there was no dragging of the pigs from their legs, yet the announcer said in the video, "the best way to catch them is to hold them by their back legs or their front legs."
The video showed people making loud noises, kids chasing after small squealing pigs, and finally supervisors dangling and dragging the screeching pigs by their back legs or front legs, then putting them into the trailer.
According to DNL Farms Ltd, a low-stress pig handling training company located in White Fox Saskatchewan, Canada, signs of a stressed pig include open-mouthed breathing, increased body temperature, refusal to move, squealing, squawking/gasping noises, and collapsing.
Furthermore, if there are too many pigs in a trailer, if they're scrambling to get away, piling on top of each other, refusing to move in bunches, or slipping, pigs are showing stress and fear.
Handler actions that cause fear and stress in pigs include too many people, too much movement or activity, and lots of noise.
Clearly the pigs in the pig scramble video are demonstrating several signs of fear and stress.
Does the community want to take part in the pig scramble? This February, my brother and his friend polled 55 Woodside kids ages 8 to 12, asking, "would you be upset if the pig scramble was no longer a part of the Woodside Jr. Rodeo?" Seventy-five percent of the kids said they would not mind if the event was no longer a part of the rodeo.
The Committee for a Humane Woodside also created a petition to stop the pig scramble. Nearly 200 Woodside residents signed it. Another online petition initiated by Animal Place has garnered over 26,515 signatures from people around the world to end the pig scramble. Since thousands of people are against it, why does Woodside still allow this event?
The pig scramble does not seem to be connected to the Mounted Patrol's Western values. And, it proves to cause stress, fear, and possible injury to the pigs. Many people in the community are passionately against the event. The Mounted Patrol should host an event in place of the pig scramble that truly expresses Western values and heritage, an event that treats animals in a humane way, and an event that the community as a whole will value.
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