NOTE: Although this wasn’t how AFA board member Molly Tamulevich planned to spend a good part of the day and evening earlier this week, it turned out to be time well spent for some animals. Her story is a good example of how one person can make a difference. Attorneys for Animals was happy to support her statement, which asked whether the City had done due diligence in determining whether the promoter had the necessary USDA license to exhibit animals, and that, absent the license, the City would not be able to ascertain how the animals were being treated.
Two weeks ago, I was happy to read on Facebook that a barbecue festival in Ferndale Michigan had removed “piglet racing” from its activity lineup. Before reading the post, I had no idea that piglet races were a trend.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, piglet races are essentially what they say they are: a group of young pigs dressed in jerseys run around a small track in the middle of a crowd. Although marketed as harmless family entertainment, traveling animal exhibitions have a bad reputation when it comes to animal welfare, and a group of activists called the mayor of Ferndale who asked the festival organizer to eliminate piglets from the programming. It was a great example of local animal advocacy. (You can google “piglet racing” and find many videos: here’s just one example).
Earlier this week, the piglet issue reared its head again, this time in Royal Oak, where I live. Flyers for “Ribfest” began circulating on social media. There, overlaying the barbecue soaked background image, was a photo of several piglets running along a track. I like to think of myself as a passionate but reasonable activist, and normally I would just ignore the festival. Looking at the pigs made me angry, however. The idea of racing these little animals while other pigs were being cooked and eaten a few feet away seemed, for lack of a better word, tacky. The theme of the festival was alcohol and meat. Adding animal racing to the agenda seemed unnecessary, classless, and unkind.
“I like to think of myself as a passionate but reasonable activist …
normally I would just ignore the festival.
Looking at the pigs made me angry, however.
The idea of racing these little animals while other pigs
were being cooked and eaten a few feet away seemed, well, tacky.
The theme of the festival was alcohol and meat.
Adding animal racing to the agenda seemed unnecessary, classless, and unkind.”
A call to the city manager confirmed that the Royal Oak City Commission had approved a permit for the festival and its entire lineup months ago. If I wanted to comment on their decision, a receptionist told me, the next commission meeting was taking place that night. Thanks to social media and the quick research of AFA board members, who voted to support my position statement, I was able to draft a statement to the commission. In addition to animal welfare concerns, it is important that animal exhibitors obtain a USDA license for their business.
The statement asked the commissioners if they had performed their due diligence and ensured that the pig races were properly licensed. A local activist and AFA member and volunteer, Mary Sarsfield, also attended asked the commission to reconsider the piglet races. She told them that these races were as problematic as bringing puppies to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Our statements drew some snickers from the audience. Judging by the heated comments regarding other city issues, we assumed that our concerns had been ignored.
Much to my surprise, we were wrong. After sending a thank you message to the commission on Tuesday, I received a response from the mayor of Royal Oak. They had asked the festival promoter to cancel the races.
“They had asked the festival promoter to cancel the races.”
It may seem like a small victory, especially if you look at the lineup of RIbFests across the state, all of which feature pig racing, but it’s a reminder that sometimes all you have to do is state your case to the right people and they will put things in motion. It’s not the end of pig racing, animal exploitation, or factory farming, but this weekend, it’s nice to know that we took a stand against an industry that profits from using animals.