STOUGHTON, Wis. - The Stoughton Fair is right around the corner, but before the weeklong event opens to the public at the end of the month, a local animal rights group is hoping to stop the fair's long-standing pig wrestling event.
For the last seven years the fair has hosted a pig wrestling competition as a part of their yearly program. Alliance for Animals and the Environment, an animal rights group, said while others may enjoy the event, the pigs don't feel the same way.
"I think you can tell by the way the pigs react, the way they are screaming, the way that they are struggling to get away, that this is not something the pigs are enjoying," AFA Executive Director Sara Andrews said.
One year after St. Patrick's Parish, in Stephensville, put an end to their annual pig wrestling event, "Pig Rasslin," Andrews hopes the Stoughton Fair will follow their lead.
Instead of pig wrestling the parish changed the event to a human foosball event that takes place in the mud. In an online petition, the AFA is calling on the event to be canceled.
"We think it teaches very bad skills to children, and that animals are here for us and to be used for our entertainment, no matter whether or not they are injured in the process," she said.
AFA has also contacted Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and the Stoughton Police Department in hopes of stopping the event, which they believe is illegal. Andrews said pig wrestling violates state statutes that protect against animal mistreatment.
The petition was started on Friday and as of Tuesday afternoon had almost 7,000 signatures.
The fair board said they are aware of the petition but declined to comment. Instead, they, said their focus is on providing a fun environment for the community.
"A family can come see the animals, the other exhibits, free parking, no admission cost, and they can just spend a good day as a family," Stoughton Fair's associate director, Rob White, said.
The fair is independently funded and relies on the help of over 100 volunteers every year to put on the free event. White said the 91-year-old fair attracts around 60,000 people every year.
White said several exhibits focus on youth in agriculture from seven different counties. Several different exhibits include animals, which is why, he said, the fair has guidelines and precautions in place to ensure the safety of animals.
"We have a veterinarian on the grounds every day, so he monitors all the animals and if any animal were to show stress or anything like that we have a vet on hand to take care of everything," he said.
White said the fair is also required to follow guidelines outlined by the State Fair Association. Andrews said if the fair board does not cancel the event, the group plans to protest on the night of the wrestling event.
The fair will be at Mandt Park in Stoughton from June 28 to July 4.