Dozens of wild pigs ranging in age from about 4 weeks to 6 months old were captured and trucked in for the event, which involved chasing them around an arena, grabbing them, and stuffing them into sacks, as they struggled and screamed in fear. The pigs were slated to be slaughtered and barbecued after the event.
Participants tackled, slapped, and kicked the young pigs, sometimes in the head. Then they grabbed them by the tail, ears, or snout and dragged them through the sand by the legs, as announcers goaded them on.
According to PETA Foundation veterinarian Dr. Christine Capaldo, such abuse could cause serious and painful injuries: “It is never acceptable to carry a piglet suspended by one or two legs as this will place excessive pressure on the leg joints and result in injuries such as dislocations, and muscle, ligament, or tendon rupture.”
Many pigs were so desperate to escape their tormenters that they tried to dig under or leap over barriers, many crashing headfirst into the metal fencing surrounding the arena again and again. One pig got her hoof caught in the fencing and struggled to wrench herself free. Many sustained open, bleeding wounds, their blood spattering the arena and the contestants.
PETA veterinarian Dr. Ingrid Taylor noted that one pig “impacted the fence so hard with his face/head that he bent the metal, … at least one pig appeared uncoordinated and disoriented after impacting the metal fence,” possibly indicating a concussion, “and one pig was possibly limping after impacting the fence.”
Pigs are highly intelligent, inquisitive, sensitive, social animals—as smart as or even smarter than dogs. This intelligence could make an ordeal like this even more traumatizing, since studies indicate that pigs can anticipate when something bad is going to happen. According to Dr. Taylor, pigs “possess the complex cognitive ability to take on the perspective of another individual, and they have shown behaviors that indicate self-awareness. They exhibit emotional contagion, a form of empathy.” Pigs at the Wild Hog Explosion huddled together in fear, their stress exacerbated by hearing other pigs’ screams of terror.
The Bandera Ham Rodeo poses a threat to the public, too. Wild pigs carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, including highly contagious brucellosis as well as tuberculosis, leptospirosis, hepatitis E, salmonellosis, and infections with E. coli. People at the event, including children, were exposed to pigs’ blood, saliva, urine, and feces—all of which can transmit disease. “While this event is untenable based solely on the cruel and unnecessary treatment of the animals involved, the event organizers and participants are also potentially spreading diseases that are a significant public health threat,” says Dr. Taylor.
Encouraging kids to watch and participate in this cruel event sends the harmful message that it’s “fun” to terrorize, hurt, and bully animals, which can foster a callous attitude toward all life.
“The pigs used in this event are subjected to prolonged pain and distress that is inhumane and completely unnecessary,” says Dr. Taylor. “This event … has nothing to do with … the appropriate management of wild species, but is merely an exercise in cruelty.”
What You Can Do to Help Pigs
PETA is calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to issue an executive order stopping the Bandera Ham Rodeo and is urging people everywhere to stay away from any event that involves the use and abuse of animals. We’ve also filed a complaint with law enforcement seeking a criminal investigation into the cruelty. Texas Penal Code prohibits a person from “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly tortur[ing] an animal,” and such cruelty is a felony. PETA has also alerted the Texas Animal Health Commission in Austin to the fact that Bandera County—and whoever transported the pigs—apparently violated state laws governing the holding and movement of feral pigs, which can carry criminal penalties.