The Lombardy Fair is striking the pig scramble from its daily events at this year’s fair. The pig scramble has been part of the fair for at least the last four years but pressure from advocacy group Ottawa Farmed Animal Save made the fair organizers reconsider it for 2017.
An online petition against the pig scramble was launched on Sunday, July 9 and by Monday, July 10 Darlene Levecque, the organizer of Ottawa Farmed Animal Save said it already had 1,500 signatures.
Levecque spoke with fair president and volunteer Melanie Chisholm on July 10 and while the conversation was “polite and civil” she said the two ended the conversation agreeing to disagree on the premise of the pig scramble but with Chisholm indicating that the group was considering cancelling.
“It’s just really disrespectful and it’s teaching kids the wrong thing,” said Anita Krajnc, founder of the umbrella organization Toronto Pig Save. “What we should be teaching them is to show love and compassion, and rescue them when they are in distress and not put them in distress.”
John Joynt, member of the livestock committee and director of the Lombardy Agricultural Society said that the pig scramble was started as a way to draw in those outside the farm community and encourage them to learn more about livestock, farming and rural life. “We weren’t getting the ringside attention because people didn’t understand what we were doing…comparing livestock.”
The fair committee started an educational building several years ago with the intent to bridge the gap between rural and urban. The building hosts things such as sheep shearing demonstrations, honey bee displays and baby chick hatching. “In order to get people into the building we use things like the pig scramble,” he said.
While each fair does their scrambles differently, Joynt explained at Lombardy young pigs are brought into a show ring to run around while children ages 3 to 6 try to touch one. “They aren’t asked to pick a pig up, just a touch and that is considered a catch,” explained Joynt, who is also a past president and has been involved with the Lombardy Fair for 60 years. “Never has a pig been harmed, a few kids have bumped heads, but that’s about it.”
Joynt said that the fair committee decided to cancel the scramble not because organizers feel there is any injustices being done to the pigs but because “our president, who farms successfully and is raising three young daughters…received many harassing calls in the last week or so and we felt she didn’t deserved it.”
Levecque said that Ottawa Farmed Animal Save had demonstrations planned for each day a scramble was scheduled. She confirmed that since the fair committee has cancelled the event, the demonstrations are also cancelled.
However, Levecque still won’t be paying her admission to get into the fairground and have a look around. “I don’t participate in fairs. I don’t believe in using animals for entertainment. I don’t believe that this is how children should be raised to treat animals,” she said.
Joynt confirmed that last year there were a handful of demonstrators outside the fair gates and felt it didn’t make for a pleasant atmosphere for fair goers.
“In the 60 years I’ve been involved in the fair, I’ve seen a lot of changes and this isn’t one of the better ones,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that these people don’t come to the fair and see how we do it. Our big concern is that if people like these protesters think that all animals should be pets, there will be disappointing times ahead.”