“Educational” pig races criticized for fair week

The Lycoming County Fair has a new attraction this year: pig racing.

The races are part of a kids zone added to the fair called the “Amelia Earhart Funway,” said Dixie McCoy, assistant to the fair board president, James Rocky Reed.

The 148th annual county fair begins Wednesday with dinner and harness racing from 4 to 10 p.m., continues with the opening of the midway from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday, and then kicks into full gear from 10 a.m.

to 10 p.m. daily from Friday through July 21.

“It’ll be something fun,” McCoy said of the Amelia Earhart Funway. “We’ve been wanting to do a kids zone and make the fair more kid-friendly.”

Though meant to be a fun attraction, the pig races also have drawn some criticism.

Pigs Don’t Race, an organization out of England that seeks protection for pigs, has drafted a petition against the Lycoming County Fair’s new pig races, claiming, “They have revoltingly and mockingly named these races ‘Race To The Butcher’ and the races are sponsored by a butcher,” and, “Animal racing is cruel and exploitative and there is no place for it in today’s modern world.”

The petition has garnered just over 43,000 signatures worldwide since early June, with over 3,400 of those coming from Pennsylvania residents, according to the petition website.

However, Reed explained, “the pigs aren’t actually racing.”

“They think they’re going to dinner,” he said.

Since they were borrowed from a local farm three weeks ago, the pigs have been kept in a ventilated, cool building with clean bedding and water, Reed said.

Though they constantly have feed in front of them, twice each day the pigs have been let out from one side of their pen into a fenced-in, 40-foot path that leads around to the other side of their pen, where they are given more food and cookies, he said.

That same routine will comprise the upcoming “races.”

“This (explanation) kind of ruins it for the kids,” he said, adding that pigs naturally run to feed. “To the kids, it looks like they’re racing.”

The races, the funway and free entry for youths aged 12 and under are all part of an attempt to make the fair more kid-friendly, Reed said. Further, he and McCoy agree that people should know where their food comes from.

“I think it’s important to teach kids that the meat comes from somewhere,” McCoy said. “It’s something that is supposed to be educational and realistic, fun and cute.”

As far as the name, “Race to the Butcher,” featured on the side of the pigs’ pen, Reed said he’s “pretty sure the pigs can’t read it.”