A Madison-based animal rights group has taken a public stand against one of the biggest attractions for Viroqua’s Wild West Days -- pig wrestling.
The Alliance for Animals wrote Wild West Days organizers in late May saying it had conferred with two attorneys who are of the opinion that pig wrestling "is in clear violation of the Wisconsin Statutes." The Alliance notes in particular Chapter 951 entitled "Crimes Against Animals," which outlaws cockfighting, dog fighting and any other similar type of fighting between animals or animals and humans.
Lynn Pauly, co-director of Alliance for Animals, said that the organization’s main goal is education and it started a specific website,
www. nopigwrestling. (pitchick says: no working links for ARs here) org, to bring attention to 10 different pig wrestling competitions held in Wisconsin.
Not only does the Alliance think that those who run or participate in pig wrestling competitions are breaking the law, but it also claims that anyone "being a spectator" of such an event is also in violation of Chapter 951. Someone prosecuted under Chapter 951 could face felony charges.
"There’s no necessity to have a gladiatorial display of human brawn against an animal who doesn’t want to participate," Pauly said. "Our intent is always education. We believe that people are compassionate and moral and deep down, after thinking about it, people will see [pig wrestling] is not right."
Vernon County District Attorney Tim Gaskell said he viewed the letter from Alliance for Animals and spoke with Pauly. He said he disagrees with the legal position of Alliance for Animals.
"When they specifically mention the examples, the intention is to maim or kill the animal," Gaskell said. "With the pig wrestling‘¦ there’s absolutely no intent to injure the animal. I would not prosecute the organizers, participants or the spectators."
Viroqua’s "hog wrasslin’" competition is attended by more than 1,000 people. Before the wrestling begins, there is a costume competition. There are both men’s and women’s divisions with about 30 teams participating. A three-person team goes into a mud-filled pit and attempt to grasp a pig and put it backside-first into a barrel in about half a minute. The team that gets the pig into the barrel in the shortest time wins. Rules include not being able to grab a pig’s leg or snout and not being able to put the pig under the mud. At the start of each competition, the emcee announces that the main concern is the safety of the pig. About two dozen pigs are put in pens near the pig wrestling pit to be used in the competition. Sometimes fewer than one-quarter of the teams will get the pig in the barrel. Some teams barely get a hand on the pig.
Wild West Days organizer Dr. Jeffrey Menn said Wild West Days conferred with Gaskell and officials from state and other groups to be certain its activities were legal. He said the 2010 "Hog Wrasslin’" competition, set for Saturday, Aug. 21, will go on as scheduled.
Pauly said that Alliance for Animals is in a fact-finding stage, attending pig wrestling events, taking photos and video, and documenting what occurs.
"What if it was a dog in that pen barking and whining when being chased around by six people?" Pauly said. "A double standard exists."
Pauly said that pigs have high intelligence and just because they are being raised to be slaughtered, doesn’t mean people can be cruel to them. She said Wisconsin, with at least 10 known pig wrestling competitions, is a haven for the activity.
"We’re not going to let this go," Pauly said. "We’re not going to stop it this summer, but we’re going to keep after it."
Pauly said one of the goals for Alliance for Animals is to get larger, national animal rights organizations to join its cause.
Eagle-eyed IJ reader Betty McCall spotted a story about the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that appeared in this month’s ‘Cow Country News‘ that might have surprised subscribers to the widely read magazine. Cow Country News, the monthly journal of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, carried a story by David Martosko of Humane Watch, a group whose motto is, ‘Keeping a watchful eye on the Humane Society of the United States,‘ made some shocking claims about how the well known animal advocacy group does business.
The bottom line in Martosko’s article is this, in the last three reported tax-years the HSUS has raised over $288 million, mostly in donations, and has returned $1000 to the state of Kentucky, a fraction of one-percent so small that it’s not worth getting your calculator out.
In an interview Tuesday, Martosko was blunt, ‘Local animal care people should be pissed off. All of this money is being sucked out of your community by these very cynical lobbyists in Washington from donors under the misapprehension that the money will come back to their community. It’s a pittance, and frankly a slap in the face.‘
Martosko is the Director of Research at the Center for Consumer Freedom (CFC), a group that has its share of critics for its ties to the alcohol, fast food and tobacco industries, but in this case his statistics appear bulletproof. All of the HSUS tax returns for 2006-2008 are available on line and back up Martosko’s charges that only a small fraction of the money HSUS raises goes to hands-on pet sheltering operations.
So where does the money go? Martosko said, according to tax returns, of the $288 million the HSUS raised in the last three years nearly $280 million went to salaries, lobbying, advertising, fundraising and other expenses with only $7 million going to sheltering operations, less than three percent.
In 2008 for example, the HSUS raised over $86 million and spent almost $38 million on salaries alone, almost 43 percent. It was this kind of disproportional spending that caused Charity Navigator, an independent, non-profit organization that evaluates American charities, to give the HSUS a one star, out of four possible, organizational efficiency rating. Martosko said this is a fair assessment of the HSUS use of donors’ dollars. ‘The standard in the nonprofit world (for overhead) is 22 percent, anything above 30 percent is scandalous,‘ he said.
While it is easy to see what the HSUS gives to Kentucky, next to nothing, by examining their tax returns, it is impossible to tell how much Kentuckians donate to the HSUS. Like all 501 (C) tax-exempt organizations, the HSUS is not required to provide donor information. But the $288 million the HSUS raised in the last three years came from somewhere, and it’s safe to say, Kentuckians gave a lot more than the $1000 they got back. Martosko points out that Kentucky isn’t even the worst served state. ‘Five states got nothing,‘ he said. ‘Look, they are taking advantage of little old ladies across the country who write $20 checks thinking it’s going to flow back into their community, and it isn’t,‘ Martosko said.
Locally, some sentiment is flowing against the HSUS. Garrard County’s Humane Society chose not to associate with the national chapter of the HSUS last December when the Farm Bureau Federation expressed displeasure with the association. A Farm Bureau representative said the federation believes the HSUS has a history of taking radical stances on livestock and agriculture, prompting a response from Kentucky State HSUS Director Pamela Rogers in a letter to the editor of the Advocate-Messenger writing, ‘In 2008, we provided more than 26,000 treatments valued at $1.2 million in free services. In total, we provided direct care to more than 70,000 animals in 2008. We also have major advocacy campaigns to combat animal cruelty, dog-fighting and cock-fighting, Canada’s notorious killing of baby seals, inhumane factory farming practices, and large-scale puppy mills, and we make no apologies for efforts to stop these terrible abuses.‘
With tough economic times affecting everyone, animal lovers may have to make a choice about where their charitable donations go. The HSUS, despite their massive overhead, do advocate for animal rights on the national and state level, but if you are interested in helping your local animal shelter directly you can get more information from Dude Cress at (606) 365- 2354.
The cruelty of rodeos and mindset of promoters is identical to dog fighting. Terrorizing and torturing innocent animals in order to dominate them is what rodeos are all about.
To keep horrific events palatable to the gullible public, promoters must make bulls or horses dangerous "villains," trying to buck off the poor defenseless wannabe cowboy. For the truly sadistic, calf roping is available for snapping a poor baby's neck, who has been terrorized to bolt straight out of a gate in a panicked run.
Those who support rodeo are just as guilty as those who exploit animals with barbaric suffering. Do not buy into the "heritage" hype ’ no rancher ever treats animals as they do in rodeo events. Take a stand; ban rodeo events.