After two years of protesting about what it considers the inhumane treatment of feral hogs at a pig-chasing event in Bandera and urging officials to shut it down, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals went a step further last week and filed suit against the group that organizes the annual event, asking state district court to end it.
A lawsuit filed by the group know as PETA on June 8 in the 198th District Court in Bandera County seeks both a temporary and a permanent injunction along with a declaratory judgment that the event called the Bandera Ham Rodeo “is inherently inhumane and is therefore a public nuisance” that will not be allowed to continue.
“The pigs defendants use at the annual hog catch experience physical and psychological suffering as a direct result of inhumane conditions to which defendant subjects them,” the suit says. “In carrying on the hog catch, defendant repeatedly and openly violates the Texas laws and regulations prohibiting cruelty to animals and protecting the public health and decency. Defendant’s unlawful conduct offends the public health and morals and constitutes a public nuisance.”
The suit was filed against the Bandera Wranglers, a community organization that stepped in last year to keep an event once called the Wild Hog Explosion going.
Its president, Nick Barron, on Monday, June 15, declined to respond to PETA’s claims, saying the Wranglers’ attorney had advised members not to comment at this time.
In the past, Wranglers officials have denied claims that the event is cruel to the hogs that are featured in it and said that staff members have worked hard to see that all the wildlife handling regulations governing the event are followed.
The Bandera Ham Rodeo, renamed this year after being called the Bacon Bash the prior year and the Wild Hog Explosion before that, features a series of competitions in which people of varying ages, usually in teams of two, try to catch a wild hog that is released into a pen, put the animal in a sack and drag the sack across a finish line faster than the other teams.
Those with the fastest times win prizes. Funds raised at the event have been used to support different nonprofit organizations, most recently the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bandera County.
The lawsuit said state law prohibits anyone from “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly … tortur(ing) an animal or in a cruel manner kill(ing) or caus(ing) serious bodily injury to an animal.”
The hog-chasing event “severely traumatizes the pigs, causing them fear, pain and physical and psychological injuries,” the suit claims.
It also said those involved in the event, including children have been directly exposed to open wounds and blood of the injured animals as they slam into fencing to avoid being caught, “thereby presenting significant zoonotic disease risks.”
Those conditions, PETA claims, constitute public nuisances in violation of Texas law.
“By urging adults and children to terrorize and tackle terrified wild pigs and piglets, we believe the Bandera Wranglers are violating Texas laws designed to protect animals, public health and common decency,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in a news release.
PETA sought both a temporary injunction that prevents the Wranglers from holding a wild hog catching event while the lawsuit is being heard, a permanent injunction at trial and a declaratory judgment that the contest is a public nuisance in violation of the law.
Attorneys fees and other reasonable relief also are requested, but attorney Jared Goodman, representing PETA, said the organization’s primary goal is “to end this cruel event.”
The Ham Rodeo expanded into a two-day event this year on March 13 and 14 and included country-and-western concerts, a barbecue cookoff, a Ms. Bacon Pageant and other activities in addition to the hog catching competitions.
The lawsuit said PETA is only challenging the hog catching component of the event.