PETA Accuses Texas ‘Ham Rodeo’ Organizers of Animal Cruelty

The hog-catch event at the Bandera Ham Rodeo in Texas. (Photo via PETA/Unparalleled Suffering)

BANDERA, Texas (CN) — A central Texas hog-catch fundraiser must be stopped because feral pigs are being kicked and dragged and the event increases the risk of transmitting disease from animals to humans, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims in a lawsuit filed Monday.

PETA sued the nonprofit Bandera Wranglers in Bandera County District Court, alleging a public nuisance. The lawsuit takes aim at the annual, two-day Bandera Ham Rodeo in March that features music, barbecue, pageants, games and hog catching to raise money for local children’s and community organizations.

The objective of a hog catch is for contestants – mostly teenagers and children – to chase and catch a feral pig, put it in a burlap sack and then drag the animal across a line as quickly as possible.

Video of the 2019 rodeo shows several teenagers slamming and tackling screaming feral pigs while a male announcer urges them to “slam that pig” and “grab that porker” by the ears.

“Defendant does not penalize persons for tackling, wrestling or striking the pigs, or grabbing or dragging the pigs by their forelegs, hind legs, snouts, ears or tails,” the 21-page complaint states. “Pigs being chased by humans during the hog catch have sustained lacerations, which results in their blood contaminating their bodies, the arena and the humans chasing them.”

PETA claims the pigs have “sufficient cognitive and emotional faculties” to undergo extreme pain, fear and dread during the contests. The lawsuit claims they are packed in small metal cages and pens next to the arena where they often “huddle close together out of fear and to attempt to reassure and comfort each other.”

PETA claims Texas law bans anyone from torturing an animal, which is defined as “any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.” It alleges the hog-catch events create a public safety risk due to “the excessive amounts of exposed pig blood, urine and feces, and infections and/or diseases which may result from the uncontrolled public interaction” between the feral pigs and humans.

PETA claims the Bandera Wranglers were warned by the Texas Animal Health Commission for illegally keeping the feral pigs without a permit. It further claims no veterinarian was on the scene to treat the injured animals.

Dr. Ingrid Taylor, a PETA veterinarian, noted that one of the feral pigs in the video hit the fence “so hard with his face/head that he bent the metal … [and] at least one pig appeared uncoordinated and disoriented after impact the metal fence,” indicating a concussion.

“The pigs used in this event are subjected to prolonged pain and distress that is inhumane and completely unnecessary,” she said in a statement. “This event … has nothing to do with … the appropriate management of wild species, but is merely an exercise in cruelty.”

The Bandera Wranglers did not immediately respond to an email message requesting comment on the lawsuit Monday morning. It claimed on March 15 that certain “criminal” protesters at this year’s event “slander our event out of their own ignorance, trespass and vandalize private and public property” and allegedly try to intimidate those in attendance.

“They’re a bunch of ignorant domestic terrorist[s],” the group posted on Facebook. “They are liars who couldn’t shut down our event by other means, bc [sic] we aren’t doing anything wrong, and our event is scrutinized and then authorized by government authorities.”

The Bandera Wranglers disputed claims the pigs are punched or kicked, stating contestants and spectators are subject to rules against punching, kicking, slamming or pulling on the ears or tails.

“Contestants were also highly encouraged to wash their hands and we had hand washing stations and sanitizer on site to prevent the potential spread of disease,” the Facebook post states. “These punks are also upset Bc [sic] 98% of the free world fail to give up eating meat as a source of dietary nutrition.”

PETA is represented by S. Mark Murray and Kenneth T. Isenberg with Ford Murray in San Antonio.

In February, the animal rights group reached a settlement with Texas A&M University over the use of filters on the college’s Facebook page that hid or deleted the group’s critical posts about dog research at the school. PETA had sued Texas A&M in federal court in 2018, claiming the filters violated its First Amendment rights. The group launched a campaign two years earlier against the school’s canine research lab’s breeding of golden retrievers predisposed to muscular dystrophy.

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