Church continues with pig wrestling event despite protesters

A group of people try to catch a pig and place it on top of the barrel

STEPHENSVILLE - An Outagamie County church didn't let protesters stop an annual tradition.

St. Patrick Church's pig rassle brought in people from across the country. Some say the event is inhumane, while others claim it's all just for fun.

This year’s roundup included more than just pigs - dozens of protesters were also present.

“This has been our tradition for 44 years. This is our big draw for our parish picnic. If we don't have the pig rassle down here, we don't hardly see any people come to our church," said Bruce Learman, pig rassle co-chair.

Once a group is put into the ring, they're given one pig. After that, the wrestlers have 45 seconds to round up the pig and place it on top of a barrel.

"Tradition is no excuse for cruelty," said Jordan Turner.

Turner is the president of Global Conservation, a Milwaukee area-based animal rights group. Last week he started an online petition to cancel the event.

“The petition received just over 60,000 signatures,” Turner said.

Turner says the animals are being abused.

"Pigs are being body-slammed and put in a barrel, that's pretty cruel to me," Turner said.

"If there is any cruelty, anything here at all, everything will get stopped immediately,” said Pat Rynish, pig rassle co-chair.

Spectators in the stands cheered while protesters held up signs in the distance.

"This is a 'go vegan' sign. There is no difference really between, in my view, a cat and a pig. We're all sensual beings deserving of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," said Charles Frey.

But if you talk to people near the pigpen, they say it’s just a playful game.

"You can basically look at a pig and it'll squeal. I think they're well monitored and they're watching them. I really don't think that they're being harmed at all," said Tara Everts.

Perhaps the pigs, parishioners and protesters will have to agree to disagree.

"It's very abusive. The pigs are squealing. They're in pain. They're scared," said Tracie Brannan.

"They keep them all safe and we're all good," said Paul Gostas.

The church says it plans to hold the event again next year.

Organizers say the entire event usually helps raise about $3,000 for the parish.