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September 01, 2016

Pennsylvania fair cancels 'violent' greased pig chase

Organizers said they were concerned for public safety after activists protested

A Pennsylvania fair has canceled an annual pig chase event after an outcry from animal activists.

In Defense of Animals (IDOA), a California-based nonprofit, said in a press release Wednesday that the Ephrata Fair has suspended the "cruel" contest in which young fairgoers attempt to chase and catch greased-up pigs.

“We welcome the Ephrata Fair’s decision not to abuse animals for fun this year,” IDOA Director Marilyn Kroplick said in the release. She called for the suspension to become a permanent ban.

Last year, animal welfare activist Kelly Lehman was arrested after she allegedly jumped the fence of the event in protest, despite police reportedly warning her not to beforehand.

In a statement provided to IDOA, the board of directors of the Ephrata Farmers Day Association said the arrest had a domino effect as more outrage ensued, leading to the suspension.

"Unfortunately, the disruption has continued throughout the past year, escalating to the point where the safety of participants and attendees to this longstanding tradition is a very real concern, leaving fair organizers with little choice other than to suspend the event," the statement read.

A call to the Ephrata Fair offices Thursday morning was not immediately returned.

Ephrata is located about an hour north of Philadelphia in Lancaster County. The town's annual fair, which runs from Sept. 20-24, has held the pig chase event for 39 years.

IDOA posted a video earlier this summer showing what happens at the pig chase and published it under the title, "Stop the Ephrata Greased Pig Chase."

While the news of the suspension was a victory for animal welfare activists, many social media users expressed outrage over nixing a longstanding tradition.

"You don't have to be there but yet you still push so that others cannot enjoy something that some families have done for years," Shane Wentzel wrote on the fair's Facebook page. "Guess next thing is safe spaces going up all over the fair and nobody will actually be able to have fun because you're going to be hurt by everything."

In 2014, a journalist with The Ephrata Review went behind the scenes of the event as well as the rooster chase, which has also been suspended this year.

Organizers explained to the newspaper that the size of the pigs chased varied between the age groups participating.

The fair said it hopes patrons "will understand the cancellation is out of concern for public safety."