NJ mayor & council cave-in to PETA objections, cancel pig

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Pig racing plan crashes after PETA complaint

Council fearful of demonstrations during Youth Sports Festival

By Dave Goldberg, Brunswick Sentinel

4/11/02


FARRAH MAFFAI Mayor David Spaulding has requested that the North Brunswick Youth Sports Festival be held without pig racing. Robinson’s Racing Pigs, pictured here, have been a staple at several fairs and festivals.

NORTH BRUNSWICK — Mayor David Spaulding decided to bar the pig racing event planned as part of next month’s Youth Sports Festival during a workshop meeting Monday night.

"I received an e-mail from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) objecting to it," Spaulding said. "Some of the things they say about the act I do find objectionable. I am concerned about how the pigs are trained for this event. If we permit this, it is controversial. Pigs are not thought of as racing animals. I would encourage the council to disallow this."

The concern over racing the pigs came from a letter sent to the township by Amy Rhodes of PETA on March 20. Rhodes claimed in her letter that about a dozen residents were concerned about having the race at the festival.

"We have been contacted by area residents who are concerned about the pig racing event planned for the association’s carnival in May," Rhodes said in the letter. "We are hopeful that you will immediately replace this event with a more humane and enlightened one. Treated as nothing more than equipment, pigs used in races are typically packed and unpacked in an endless string of exhibitions.

"These intelligent and sensitive animals are forced to endure large and boisterous crowds of people and cameras," the letter continued. "They have no chance of escape and no understanding of what is happening to them. Focused on the running of the event, game operators frequently neglect the most basic needs of the animals including rest, food and water. Injuries to animals as a result of rough handling or during transport from one venue to the next are common and are considered a part of doing business. Training methods for pig racing often include the use of prods and food deprivation."

Rhodes, who proclaims pig racing to be wrong, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that she did not need to see the races to know they are wrong.

"You don’t need scientific training to know pig racing is cruel," Rhodes said.

Councilman Adam Weiss objected to having this type of act in town, alleging that it is harmful to the pigs.

"From what I can find, it will find nothing other than controversy," Weiss said. "I don’t want to bring in a demonstration (by PETA). I would hate to need additional security and I see no monetary value. I am firmly against animals being in this position. It is no more than pimping pigs for a dollar. This is no benefit to youth sports or the kids."

Attraction owner David Feimster of the Sue Wee Pig & Ugly Pig Racing, Jackson, was not allowed to speak on behalf of pig racing at the meeting, but said later that his pigs are treated well.

"The pigs are trained and fed properly," Feimster said. "We buy them and keep them in large, air-conditioned grass pens. I have been a teacher for 25 years in my hometown of Jackson and am recognized for using the best practices. I am a full-time teacher putting four kids through college. I can produce letters endorsing this type of event at the Middlesex County Fair, the Meadowlands Fair and the Daisy Fair. Nothing has ever gone wrong and I have never had demonstrating [during his racing events]."

Rhodes said she was not aware that Feimster was the person bringing the pig racing event to North Brunswick and was unaware of his background when she made the complaint.

Rhodes said that she had no documentation, evidence or information that Feimster has done anything wrong, but objected to the event because of its nature.

"It is unnatural for the pigs," she said.

Rhodes said that the organization gets about 300 complaints each month and that there are not enough funds to visit or investigate all such facilities.

"I don’t want to open up a can of worms, and I don’t see any redeeming value of having this race," Councilman Bruce Chandlee said.

Pig racing is a big draw, according to Feimster.

"People will come to see pig racing," he said. "Kids don’t get to see animals anymore. There are not many farms. This will provide the opportunity to see the animals. This is select legislation. There is pork being served at the event; isn’t that cruelty? PETA is a proven terroristic group. I’m amazed the town is bowing down to a group like PETA."

Chairman of the Youth Sports Festival Phil Sinicropi said if the mayor does not want to have pig racing at the festival, it won’t be there.

"We’re just doing it for the kids. I will not challenge the mayor. We were counting on this attraction to draw more money. Pig racing was going to be the featured event," he said.

Council President Francis "Mack" Womack said he was concerned about a demonstration by PETA.

"PETA goes off the deep end too often, and there are serious concerns," Womack said. "This may be a potential security concern. The simple prudent action would be to hold it off."

Last year representatives from PETA were arrested following a demonstration at a township home of a Princeton lab worker. Red paint was thrown on the home and 20 adults were arrested in the July 13 incident.

Councilman Larry Baldini said it is not a good idea to give in to PETA’s threats.

"You’re letting a radical group take over a township. You can’t dictate to them. Everyone is going to have a different view. If it was such a big problem, it would not be offered. I think we should sit back and hear from our sources. Animal groups are against our choices," he said.

Council Vice President Carlo Socio also said it would not be a good idea to give in to PETA. "We cannot be dictated by a radical group," he said.

Although he could not provide any background or examples, Spaulding claimed that the pigs are treated unfairly by the owners.

"I can portray a picture that they may be treated with love, but it may not be," Spaulding said. "I would like to get a better idea of what goes on. I clean up as well when I have company. I’m concerned what goes on when the critical eye leaves. I am also concerned about the scheduling the pigs endure."

In the end, Spaulding said it would not be worth fighting for the pig racing.

"I had thought about the treatment of animals, but I had not thought about the potential demonstration," Spaulding said. "We have to pick our battles. Do we really feel strongly about this? This is going to have a minimal effect on the festival. I will direct the Youth Sports Festival to disallow pig racing as a part of the festivities. It will not be permitted in North Brunswick."
 

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