By Patrick Meagher
The cancellation of the greasy pig contest last month at an Eastern Ontario fair isn’t the end of the world but it offers us just one more clue that perhaps the 21st century really will shape up to be the century of the special interest group.
The greasy pig contest was a very popular event at South Mountain Fair near Ottawa. The contest grouped children by ages, starting at age four. Each group was sent into a pen to face down an equal number of pigs. The winning child in each age group was the first to hold a pig, usually by its hind legs, with its front hooves touching the ground inside one of several hula-hoops placed in the pen.
It was great fun watching four-year-olds stepping gingerly across the grass and tugging on a hind hoof. Great fun until someone sent a video of the event to an animal activist and they mobilized. More than 100, mostly American, animal activists (i.e. people with too much time on their hands) got involved (i.e. began making up stories in their heads) and started phoning and emailing (i.e. launched their war on fun) the fair president Paul Allan.
If you have ever actually been to a greasy pig contest, you’ll notice that there is far less risk to a pig than pulling a dog by the neck. And there are millions of dogs on leashes. I’m sure I could think up 1,000 things more risky than the greasy pig contest. But we’re talking about extreme animal activists here. They can be hyper-intolerant with anything that involves meat eaters. To these activists, the pigs were terrified, first by the size of the perpetrators and then by their Herculean strength. If anyone has ever watched a wide-eyed four-year-old on stage for a Christmas play, you know how menacing they can be.
I had the wonderful opportunity of entering three of my kids in the South Mountain Fair greasy pig contest a few years ago. So I got to see how a pig could escape from a child’s pretzel grip. It took one step forward. Or it flicked its leg like it was swatting a fly. It’s that easy. A pig might even trot to the other side of the pen and, so concerned about being enclosed and surrounded, immediately let its guard down, ignore its assailants, and return to looking down at the grass for something to eat. It reminds me of the extreme animal activist who lets his guard down to go to the washroom after hours of gaming online and gets shocked by the reality that he really should start looking for a job.
The horror and the inhumanity of the greasy pig contest was too much for some in the packed bleachers. I looked up and saw the tears in their eyes — they were laughing so hard. So unconcerned were the pigs about getting away that, to make the contest more challenging, the children “greased up” before entering the pen by dipping their hands in a bucket of vegetable oil.
Two days before the scheduled South Mountain greasy pig contest, an emergency meeting was held and the fair board voted to cancel the show. That’s when the extreme animal activists had tears in their eyes from laughing so hard.
One board member pushed the story that the fair’s $47,000 provincial fair grant was in jeopardy if they didn’t pull the plug on the pigs. This was an event that had been going on for 13 years and no one had ever called the OSPCA.
I hope that the fair board has learned a lesson about social media, first of which is that social media can create what appears to be a firestorm but is usually just a squeal of people who like to think they are protesting without having to make much of an effort. A phone call and an email is far easier than having to get off the couch in their parents’ basements.
It’s as important to note that the best way to stop a bully is to stand up to him. In hindsight, the fair president suggested the board might consider reinstating the greasy pig contest at next year’s fair.
After all, even the pigs enjoyed the fresh air.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org