It’s over – Pig, rooster chases canceled

By on August 31, 2016
Children anxiously await the start of the pig chase Sept. 22 2015. PHOTO BY Preston Whitcraft

Children anxiously await the start of the pig chase Sept. 22 2015.                                  Photo: Preston Whitcraft

Organizers say safety and protester disruption concerns fueled the decision to cancel what would have been the 40th Ephrata Fair Pig Chase

 

By Patrick Burns

The Ephrata Fair has canceled its 2016 pig chase.

Fair officials cited concerns about the “disruption” at last year’s  event and another planned protest this year which elevated safety worries.

“Sadly, after 39 years, the Board of Directors of the Ephrata Farmers Day Association, has decided to suspend the annual Pig and Rooster Chase at Tent City,” attorney Richard Young wrote in message sent to The Ephrata Review Tuesday.

“Many are aware of the disruption to last year’s Pig Chase which resulted in the arrest of one individual,” he continued. “Unfortunately, the disruption has continued throughout the past year, escalating to the point where the safety of participants and attendees to this long-standing tradition is a very real concern, leaving fair organizers with little choice other than to suspend the event.”

An ugly scene marred last year’s event when several angry spectators verbally scolded protester Kelly Lehman, who had jumped the fence to enter the chase area during the final 16-and-over event.

ER_Pig Chase Protests_TOP_StoriesReports of the cancellation on the Ephrata Review Facebook page Tuesday evening caused a firestorm of criticism.

The Ephrata Farmers Day Association board initially voted to cancel the adult pig chase, which had drawn the most criticism from protest groups.

The decision to cancel this year’s event comes only days after protest groups launched efforts to target fair sponsors.

Social media posts and web sites such as http://boycottephratafair.com/, urged people to call the offices of fair sponsors to engage specific employees with imploring messages that those companies end financial support for the fair as long as the pig chase exists.

A group of about 15 people demonstrated Aug. 13 and posted online photos with protest signs in front of Ephrata National Bank, one of the fair’s main sponsors.

Lehman said last week that her group wouldn’t stop protesting until the pig chase was canceled.

“To have children doing (pig chase) is in and of itself inappropriate because what are we telling these children?” she said. “It is a violent event.”

Rumors have circulated that protests this year could  extend beyond  the pig chase event and even disrupt the fair parade and other programs.

Ephrata Police Chief William Harvey would say only that “The ultimate goal of any planned public event is public safety and the safety of all attendees.”

Calls to board members last week were forwarded to the board’s attorney but some speaking off the record conceded that canceling the event was a distinct possibility.

There’s no word yet on what might replace the extremely popular pig chase event which benefits young farmers.

Paul Zimmerman, fair volunteer and pig chase organizer, said it’s sad to see an event end where families of three generation have participated.

LNP File Photo boys chase greased pig in contest at the Ephrata Fair. PHOTO Suzette Wenger

LNP File Photo boys chase greased pig in contest at the Ephrata Fair.
PHOTO Suzette Wenger

 

He  said the event used 15 to 17 pigs — sized on a graduated scale for the various age groups — and the genesis of chasing and gathering pigs is a necessary skill farmers used and developed on the job.

“All good things come to an end I guess,” Zimmerman said. “There’s going to be a lot of disappointed kids.”

The cancellation also comes as Ephrata Borough Council was considering revamping the ordinance which allowed the pig chase to exist legally at Grater Park.

Susan Rowe, council president, had solicited public comment to gauge the support for the pig chase.

She said responses were equally divided for and against the event, as of Tuesday afternoon.

“I am planning to announce at the work session on Sept. 6 that I will be asking a committee to look into these types of events,” Rowe had said before word of the cancellation.

Posts on The Ephrata Review’s Facebook page about the protesters targeting of the fair’s sponsors drew many responses — some blaming the paper for giving voice to the agitators.

One of the initial posts had a reach of nearly  12,000  and prompted 64 comments. A preview of the story on the pig chase cancellation received 190 comments in only a few hours on The Ephrata Review’s Facebook page Wednesday morning.

Tina Thompson  was one of many who called for a counter protest: “I think we should have a group of supporters there too! We have just as much right as you that oppose! Peace and respect also means we can have our say, peacefully!”

The other view on the divided discussion was shared by Suzanne Gonzalez.

“Kindness, empathy and compassion for all creatures are human virtues,” she wrote. “To the contrary, the Ephrata Fair animal chases (pig and rooster) are inhumane events that promote bullying and cruelty towards animals. Please do not support animal abuse of any kind. Say NO MORE to the Ephrata Fair Animal Chases.”

Rowe said council received and approved “at the recommendation of the Public Safety Committee, permission for the Farmers Day Association for relief of section 123-1 of the borough code to allow them the use of Grater Park for livestock judging and a petting zoo.”

Young clarified the safety concerns of Ephrata Farmers Day Association board.

“The mission of the Ephrata Fair is to educate attendees about the importance of agriculture while providing a safe and fun environment for the entire family,” Young wrote.

“In light of the anticipated disruption level, the Ephrata Farmer’s Day Association has decided, in the interest of public safety, to suspend the Pig and Rooster Chase,” he noted.

Young said the board realizes there will be “many disappointed by the decision.”

Rowe expressed similar safety concerns shared with the Ephrata Farmers Day Association board. She said some “people are planning to protest, and another group is planning to counter-protest.”

“I am concerned for the safety of the Ephrata Borough PD as they try to keep the crowds under control, as well as for the attendees, particularly young children that may be in the area, either to watch or participate in the event or just walking through the park to get to the petting zoo or see the farm equipment,” Rowe said.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455

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Social media editor and staff writer for Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.

33 Comments

  1. Jennofur OConnor

    August 31, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Yay! This spectacle should have ended years ago. What kind of parent encourages their child to participate in such a cruel display?

    Children who participate in these kinds of events come away with the belief that animals can be harassed for fun no matter how terrifying it may be for the animal. No one could possibly assert that the pigs enjoy this event.

    • Rosemary Weidman

      August 31, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      I agree – time to move on. No sense for kids (for that matter, adults) to be in a battle at a fair. There is enough animal cruelty in this area as it is. The chase can be replaced with something else, I am sure.

    • Larry Buehler

      August 31, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      I’m sorry but I won the first roaster chase and I didn’t come away with the belief that animals can be harassed for fun. I think this broad statement is not correct.

      • Alyssa

        September 4, 2016 at 11:26 am

        I think you’re ignorant if you think this activity is anything but cruel. It’s not just that… it’s the fact that poor defenseless pigs are being chased and tackled for no reason but human entertainment. They didn’t agree to this so it is not out right to assume this kind of behavior is ok. And it does give a lot of people, especially impressionable kids, that they “are just pigs”. They deserve respect and peace of living…not fear and torment.

    • Suzanne OBrien

      September 1, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      I have to agree with that statement. Although it does not sound like the intent was to harm the creature doesn’t understand that .

  2. Maureen Koplow

    August 31, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Finally, Ephrata is moving into the 21st century. Although the choice was not made for humane reasons, the result will certainly result in a little less suffering for the animals and a little less indoctrination for the participants. Perhaps the people in town will think about the decision and possibly start to understand that chasing a terrified animal is not the best way to have fun. There was a time when dog fighting and cock fighting were acceptable, but now these activities are outlawed throughout the nation. The end of the pig and rooster chase is another step toward decency and compassion. There is still a long way to go, but as they say, the longest journey begins with a single step.

  3. Rosie

    August 31, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Good. These events are cruel to animals, and they also do an enormous disservice to children by teaching them incorrect lessons about respect.

  4. LucyP

    August 31, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Good! This is nothing more than bullying–the last thing we should be teaching kids to do.

  5. KimMarie

    August 31, 2016 at 11:19 am

    I think it’s great that Ephrata cancelled the event. We want to cultivate compassion in kids, not desensitize them to another thinking and feeling being’s suffering.

  6. Stephanie

    August 31, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Amen!

  7. Rosemary Weidman

    August 31, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Time for the chase to end. Too much animal cruelty in this area to begin with. Not needed at the fair. And noone wants kids (and adults) put in harms way. The chase can be replaced by another event I am sure.

  8. Beckie Brocies

    August 31, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    It’s unfortunate that the reasons for canceling never include any concern for the animals. Heaven forbid that the activists get recognition for the years of compassion.

  9. Kelly King

    August 31, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Thank you to those who stood up for what’s right and fought to end this event and to those who made the decision to end it. Just because an activity is traditional doesn’t make it okay.

  10. Ann Davis

    August 31, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Excellent news! I am commenting from Canada and want your staff and readers to know that the world is watching. Pig races are abusive. We can come up with other ways to amuse ourselves that don’t include animal exploitation and cruelty.

  11. Sarah Salluzzo

    August 31, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    As a native Lancaster Countian and a therapist at one of Ephrata’s largest businesses, as well as the PA-16 district co-leader of The Humane Society of the United States, I say KUDOS to Ephrata for showing their humanity! I know it is scary for people steeped in tradition to make changes but history shows that society has condoned some pretty horrible things and thanks be to those that worked to change them. We need to think about what we are encouraging in children with these types of activities. Countless amounts of research ties violence against animals to violence against other humans. We all deserve better and that includes the pigs and roosters that will be spared this year. I’m sure they will still end up slaughtered but as someone else mentioned, the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. In the past couple of months our county has garnered national attention for the puppy mill cruelty in the Libre case and the horse being beaten to death on a main road in Ephrata. I feel proud that we have shown the nation that we do not condone such egregious violence. We are a community that does have traditional values such as kindness and respect. As the old prayer reads: Dear Father, hear and bless, thy beasts and singing birds, and guard with tenderness, small things that have no words.
    Way to go, Ephrata.

    • Ingrid

      September 6, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Well said, Sarah. Thank you. You give me hope, that humanity still exists with some. We need more people, like you.

  12. angie

    September 1, 2016 at 7:07 am

    its fun for kids. Pigs are natural flight not fight animals so take it as exercise for them… no harm being done in chasing laughing and having a good time. Consider it like TAG YOUR IT ! 🙂

    • Susan Patrie

      September 2, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      When’s the last time you had your back broken or ribs broken playing tag?

    • Ingrid

      September 6, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Really? Being a frightened animal is “fun”? Perhaps a group of hyped up pigs, chasing a young, human toddler, would be “fun”, too? Please…don’t breed. You obviously don’t understand compassion, and you will pass this on to your offspring. We already have enough idiots in this world. No more.

  13. ryan greye

    September 1, 2016 at 10:45 am

    This is a disgusting event and im glad to see its gone.
    Disappointed kids? They will get over it.

  14. Dave

    September 1, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    There will be a Pig Chase again

    • Susan Patrie

      September 2, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Don’t hold your breath

  15. Kevin Drost

    September 1, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I won the very first greased pig contest in 1972 at the Ephrata Fair. Both the Ephrata Review and the Lancaster New Era gave me front page billing with me pictured carrying the 35lb pig upside down by its feet. Even then there was public outcry regarding the treatment of the pig. I happen to agree with the decision by fair organizers to discontinue the event on humanitarian grounds although I can say without hesitation that I did not come away from the event with the belief that it is ok to be cruel to animals. Two years ago I broke up a fight at the fair In which three large teenage boys were beating up a younger and smaller boy while other adults passively looked on. I am sure the three bullies believed it was ok to harrass and be cruel to the younger boy no matter how terrified the smaller boy was. I am sure he did not enjoy the encounter. My point is that the pig chase event did not make me a cruel person as my parents were active participants in my life, teaching me right from wrong. Parental guidance is more important in making the fair a kinder more decent place than cancelling a thoughtless event such as the greased pig contest.

  16. Karma

    September 2, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Setting good examples and teaching kids compassion instead of violence is the need of the hour. Compassionate kids will turn out to be compassionate adults n vice versa

  17. Cintia

    September 2, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Unfortunately they didn’t cancel because they agree.
    “Kids” disappointed?
    Awww…
    I have a solution, put a pig or rooster costume on some of those innocent “kids” or the organizers, put grease on them and have a blast!

  18. Mary Finelli

    September 2, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    The Ephrata Farmer’s Day Association should do the right and responsible thing by not merely suspending but cancelling these animal abusive activities. Such cruelty is a throwback to the age of dogfighting and cockfighting, though in the case of pig and chicken chasing it’s children who are encouraged to be the aggressors. Siccing children on these defenseless animals promotes animal abuse and encourages children to be bullies. It’s the very opposite of what they should be encouraged to do. Thank goodness for the people who oppose these appalling spectacles. Allowing them is unjustifiable and a disgrace to Ephrata.

  19. Terry Stokes

    September 3, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    this is disgusting the animals don’t understand what’s going on they must be terrified of what’s happening what next will the children do parents educate yourselves and your children little things please little minds

  20. Ingrid

    September 6, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    How disgusting. A bunch of “bratty” kids chasing/scaring a baby pig. Perhaps someone should chase and abuse the babies that belong to these ignorant parents? How would these ignorant parents feel about that? I am tired of dealing with poor, white trash. I wish they were all sterilized, and not able to reproduce. My husband, an obstetrician, would often state this thought. . Get the banjos out…here they come. Ugh.

    • Rebecca

      September 16, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Hitler had similar thoughts regarding sterilization.

    • Elle

      September 17, 2016 at 6:53 am

      I would like to know why Ingrid thinks she can decide who can “breed”. Who is she referring to when she calls people “poor white trash”? Is it because her husband is a doctor? If he shares her opinions he needs to get out of the doctoring business. I hope they don’t breed.

  21. Mave

    September 17, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you for canceling this event. It is inhumane. I am a teacher, and children should be taught to respect and be kind to all living beings, not harass them for fun.

  22. B Baumann, MD

    September 17, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    As a physician and a mother, I am shocked that these kinds of events even exist. I don’t want my child or her friends attending any event where animals, clearly frightened and confused, are being chased by humans. I’m sure some of these animals are hurt in the process as well.
    Glad to see that the event was cancelled but the reasons the organizers are giving are pathetic. It should be cancelled because chasing defenseless beings — animals or human — is cruel. Can YOU parents imagine YOUR child being chased by a group of frenzied yapping, barking dogs? I’m sure we can condone it by saying “It’s good exercise for the kids!” Horrified by that thought? You should be.

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