I got a phone call last Friday night from a person who had happened upon my name on the internet. She expressed concern about a pig scramble that was held as part of a local rodeo, wanted to know my opinion, and wanted resource materials about appropriate handling of pigs.
I referred her to the Five Freedoms, AMI Animal Handling Guidelines, National Pork Board’s TQA and PQAPlus programs. I also wrote a letter for her to take to rodeo organizers outlining my views on pig scrambles. Following is that letter.
January 23, 2017
To the organizers of ******Rodeo “Pig Scramble”
My name is Nancy Lidster. I grew up on a mixed grain and hog farm in the 1950’s. My husband and I raised pigs commercially from 1981 – 2001. Since 1996 I have been teaching and promoting Low Stress Pig Handling. I have been asked to comment on inclusion of a Pig Scramble in your rodeo.
I understand the tradition of pig scrambles at rodeos and sports days as a way to involve kids in an activity that – aside from a few bruises and scrapes – is relatively safe and exciting for the kids and entertaining for the audience. The thing is, this isn’t the 50’s or 60’s or 80’s and things that used to be socially acceptable aren’t any more. Attitudes towards farm animals have changed. We now acknowledge that pigs and other animals experience fear and pain and that we humans are responsible for minimizing unnecessary pain, fear, and injury experienced by animals in our care. By their very nature, pig scrambles are frightening and carry an increased probability of pain or injury for the pigs involved and they are not necessary.
Every step of commercial pig production from birth through transport to slaughter is now being monitored and audited to ensure that high standards of animal care and welfare are maintained and to identify and fix situations where they aren’t. The treatment of animals in a pig scramble falls far short of today’s pork industry standards for animal care and handling. Pig scrambles aren’t exempt from industry standards just for being “entertainment”.
Today, the majority of people’s exposure to animals is limited to family pets, and that human / pet relationship shapes their expectations of how farm animals should be treated. Consider their perspective if you will, by picturing a scramble in which you replace the pigs with puppies or kittens or bunnies. Whether or not you share their perspective, it is today’s social reality. Rather than defending a pig scramble tradition, I’d urge you to invest your energy and imagination in creating new activities to involve and engage kids at your rodeos.
I support animal agriculture. I would be happy to discuss my views if you feel that would be useful.
Nancy Lidster BSA
for DNL Farms Ltd.
We were a major contributor to the National Pork Board’s “Trucker Quality Assurance” TQA Handbook Version 5: Chapter 1 – “Pig Behavior” and Chapter 2 – “Handling”.
I enjoyed the pork chop I had for supper last night. I saddled old Buckshot and went for a ride part way through writing this blog today. The stray cat that showed up yowling on our deck a couple of months ago is likely wondering why her domestic staff isn’t there at her beck and call right now. Animals have always enriched my life in so many ways.
That’s it for this time