Animal welfare groups call for end to winter fair jamming

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Animal rights groups in Brandon and Winnipeg are calling for an end to an event at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.

Animal Justice, a Canadian animal rights organization, and the Winnipeg Humane Society, with support from the Brandon Humane Society, released a letter calling for the Pig Scramble and Calf Scramble to be removed from Winter Fair activities, citing animal cruelty and safety. of the children concerned.

The scrambles involve children aged between seven and 11 chasing a herd of piglets or calves in a race to capture one for cash prizes. For pigs, once caught, the participant places a scrunchie or garter around the pig’s neck to show that it has been caught and released.

For calves, participants must remove a handling halter.

The concern of all three groups is the same: the aim is to scare the animals and aggressively chase and catch them for entertainment, stressing them and risking harm to the animals and children involved, they say. .

Show organizers have animal safety and welfare in mind when planning hog and calf scrambles, said Manitoba Provincial Show Board Chair Cathy Cleaver, which hosts the winter fair. A committee is dedicated to jamming planning and members incorporate several safety protocols to protect both animals and participating children.

“It’s all planned to reduce stress and risk of injury to piglets and calves,” she said. “We’ve had conversations with our vet to make sure the protocols are in place, how we’re handling the event and we’ve discussed having a standard operating procedure on how to handle these kids and these pigs.”

There have been extensive discussions with staff to ensure the piglets and calves are handled humanely, Cleaver said. All are experienced livestock handlers and adhere to government regulations. They also discussed proper instructions for participants on how to handle and manage animals, as well as safety equipment. St. John Ambulance will be on site in the event of an accident.

Once the stampede is over for the pigs, they are brought back to a quiet pen.

“It’s only a few minutes in their life, but they’re treated with the utmost respect,” Cleaver said. “Most of these kids have no experience with livestock or have touched an animal. In my opinion, it’s harder for kids than for pigs.”

Although they disagree, Cleaver said she respects optics and appreciates animal advocacy. However, the committee in charge is determined to set an example on how to manage the livestock for the children. The purpose of the fair is to educate people about handling livestock in a fun and accessible way, including scrambling. She plans to write a letter to Animal Justice explaining how they’re doing the jamming this year.

None of the groups in the letter are against the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair as a whole, but they do oppose the stampede, said Tracy Munn, director and manager of the Brandon Humane Society shelter.

“I don’t think it’s right to teach our kids to run and terrify animals,” she said in an interview. “There’s nothing fun about it.”

She added that she was surprised that breeders wanted to see their animals treated this way. Most farmers who raise pigs know they are intelligent animals, she said, so deliberately stressing them shouldn’t be a consideration.

Even efforts to reduce stress are not enough. Simply subjecting animals to stress of any kind is not acceptable to her or her organization.

“I love the fair. I think it’s great and educational as a whole, but it needs to go,” she said. “Other fairs in Canada have ended their hog scrambles because they are cruel. Why is this fair clinging to it?”

While event organizers are taking steps to reduce physical and psychological harm to pigs and calves, those efforts are simply not enough, said Brittany Semeniuk, animal welfare consultant at the Winnipeg Humane Society. These events are simply inhumane from an animal perspective, she said.

“What we’ve seen across Canada and here in Manitoba is that modern society doesn’t see these types of events the way we did 20 or 30 years ago,” he said. she stated. “It’s not fun to watch animals in a frenzied state and placed in a chaotic environment just for entertainment.”

Fairs in Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have canceled their animal stampedes due to the damage they cause to the animals involved, says Kaitlyn Mitchell , Winnipeg lawyer for Animal Justice. Having kids chasing and catching scared animals for entertainment is totally unnecessary, Mitchell said.

“Federal and provincial laws are clear that it is illegal to cause distress and suffering to animals in the name of entertainment,” Mitchell said.

“Pig and calf scrambling are not exempt from our animal cruelty laws. If the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair chooses to go ahead with its hog and calf scrambles, we expect that the fair organizers and the owners of the animals involved will be held accountable for any violations of the laws. federal or provincial laws on cruelty to animals.

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