Tuesday night, September the 22nd, I was arrested for disorderly conduct. I tried to hop a fence that was surrounding a baseball field of the 97th annual Ephrata fair pig chase. A “family fun tradition,” says Stephanie Smith, a secretary of the fair. I miscalculated my jump and fell face first onto the field. There were hundreds in the crowd and they roared with laughter. But let me start at the beginning.
About a month ago I was with my mother while she was getting her hair done. She and her hair dresser were talking about this and that, and somehow animal rights issues came up. She asked if we knew who to contact about getting a pig chase canceled and fast as lightning I raised my hand and passionately declared “ME!” I told her about the work we do as Animal Action of Greater Reading, a few of our campaigns and our latest fair protest stories. She said the Ephrata fair, which I later learned is the largest street fair in all of Pennsylvania, had a yearly animal chase – rooster and pig.
She said that last year was so horrible that a pig ended up getting it’s back broken. I was mortified and somehow surprised to hear about something like that happening so close to home, when in reality I should have known better. I told her I would get on top of it immediately.
I did some digging, looked at videos and photos from years past (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcUzY_9K9m4). It was awful. The squeal of the pigs covered in grease, dirt and cuts, and the rooster running for it’s life was beyond appalling. I couldn’t begin to imagine what it would be like to be in that situation. Looking for safety but it never comes. It was incredibly clear that this annual, cruel “tradition” had to go. When I scanned the fair’s schedule for the chasing events, I saw that the rooster chase had been canceled for this upcoming year. Their website stated “CANCELED due to avian flu.” BIRD FLU. Hey Ephrata fair here’s an idea, when our supposed community building events for children are abusive to animals and run the risk of bird flu contamination, we should be coming up with new ideas.
I was watching a news video on last years chase (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcUzY_9K9m4) and saw a man called “hog boss”, A.K.A. Paul Zimmerman. While I was disturbed with what I was seeing and hearing there was a glimmer of hope when I heard hog boss say “every year I think it’s enough now, but then you see faces of the kids and say ‘one more year.'” I thought this would be a great time to call him and see if we could have a civil conversation about what fun activity could replace this outdated, animal chasing tradition. Unsurprisingly that was not the case. From the moment I asked “Are you open to discussing some other fun options that could end the animal chases?” he became extremely defensive and did the whole “I’m a speciesist and couldn’t care less about the animals” thing. He kept saying things that were incomprehensible to me like “how do you know pigs smart?” and “how do you know they’re being hurt?” I told him I didn’t have to been there to know it was harmful and wrong. He started to get louder speaking over me but I cut him off immediately. I let him know he was being totally unprofessional and that I would not stop calling until I could speak to someone who was professional and have a open and calm conversation about evolving this event. He hung up.
I then decided to create an event urging people to RESPECTFULLY call the hog boss and fair office asking them to end all animal chasing events indefinitely. That in the year, 2015, this type of exploitation forced against innocent beings will no longer be tolerated by our community. Within a few hours of people calling the hog boss, his extension line magically disappeared. He was no longer reachable. We continued to urge people to call and email the fairs office. We also asked that people leave comments and reviews on the Ephrata fairs Facebook, again, respectfully asking that they end these chases. Within a few hours their Facebook had magically been shut down too. We then asked people to reach out to the fair’s sponsors, which was listed on the fair’s website, but just like hog bosses phone number and the fairs Facebook page, the sponsor list was gone. This went on for a few weeks up until the fair.
As the craziness continued it was clear that they wouldn’t be ending this years chase. I knew I needed to witness this first hand, but not alone. I asked a few activist friends if they were available to attend, but because it was last minute, only my good friend Crystal was available. We went there with the intention to get as much video footage as possible so we could use it to show sponsors of the fair, animal rights groups, local AND countrywide people that the horrors occurring during animal chases are completely needless, harmful, unacceptable and must end.
When we arrived there were hundreds of people surrounding the field. It completely freaked me out that SO many people were not only supporting this, but that they were all beaming with delight. There was a thick and uncomfortable energy that filled the field and spilt out over everyone. Their solidarity in loving this violence was infuriating. Everyone was so amped up. We decided to split up so we could get as many different angles of the chase as possible. Before I even began to record there was a cop that came up behind me. (NOW, the police reported that they “warned” me not to do anything, but that is NOT the case.) He said “Can I speak with you for a moment?” and I said “sure!”, with my phone up and recording his face immediately. (ALWAYS RECORD EVERYTHING.) He told me “I really appreciate you staying peaceful tonight.” I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He repeated himself. I walked away and found a good spot to stand. He
followed close behind. The announcer of the chase went over the rules of the event, one of which was “no metal spikes allowed” and something ridiculous like “be gentle with the animal.” Total mind fuck.
The first age group, 5-8 years of age, ran onto the field and stood behind the line. Then three men with big red boards went over to the pigs pens. I couldn’t see how many pigs where there but it had to be around 4 or 5 tops. The men made a small opening in the crate and urged one pig out. The pigs obviously did not want to come out, and when they did, they just wanted to run away to safety. The red boards were used to keep the pig confined so they should shuffle him onto the middle of the field. Once at center field the red boards were lifted and a beautiful little pig covered in grease fat was exposed. Huge clumps of it melted all over his face and body. His tall was cut and I think it’s safe to assume his teeth were cut off as well, as that is standard “hog raising” protocol. This tiny pig was adorable, precious and I wanted nothing more than to grab him and keep him safe. He walked a little and sniffed where he had been placed. Within seconds, a whistle was blown and dozens of screaming children took off after him. As soon as the pig felt them coming, he ran in a confused panic and the children and crowd went wild. People screaming, laughing and applauding. Making bacon references, and shouting things like “DUMB PIG!” Very quickly a mob of children jumped onto the pig, grabbing and pulling at him. He shrieked out in total terror. Once the pig was pinned down by one child, a man instructed how to grab and hold onto the pig to carry them back to his pen for the win. Each “winner” received a trophy. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. I could barley stand. I had never seen anything like this in person before. I was mortified, I was in shock and my heart was in my throat. Everyone who was watching pointed and laughed at the pig’s distress and fear. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend any of what I was seeing or hearing. EVERY chase had a pig screaming so loudly you could hear it over everyone’s yelling, cheering and laughter; and even now as I write this almost a week later tears run down my face because I can feel it just as strongly as when I was there.
It only got worse with each passing event. Each different age category became not only more intense, but also more difficult to keep filming. A few pigs managed to escape under the fence but were drug back in. You could tell the same few pigs were being used over and over again because when they were brought out, they were filthy from being plummeted to the ground previously. I saw how each time the same pig was brought out they became more defeated with each whistle blow. Towards the end they gave up from exhaustion and stayed in place. Each pig screamed for help and safety, but no one helped and no one saved them – only roaring applause and laughter from the enormous crowd surrounding them. I was so sickened by this I could barely stand. The ignorance was like a drug in the air and the crowd seemed to became more intoxicated with each round. Everyone was so worked up and excited watching these animals be terrorized. It was one of the most violent and
barbaric events I have ever had the displeasure of seeing in my life and I will never forget.
The chases kept going until they reached the “16 and up” girls. I was shocked to see there were mostly ADULT women in this chase. They released a larger, older pig and I was mortified to see adult women participating in this violence. It was brutal. I was shaking inside and when they were announcing the “16 and up” men’s chase to come onto the field I couldn’t take it anymore. It was awful to see the young children acting in this way but when adults proudly marched onto field I was once again in total disbelief. The guys were ready to go at the starting line. By now most people knew who we were and the men started yelling arrogantly “FILM THIS”. As they brought the pig out, I could no longer be still. I could no longer be silent.
I told Crystal I had to do something. Being the amazing activist she is, she told me she’d follow my lead. I said “I have to jump over this fence and say something… on the count of three”. So we counted and I tried to jump the fence but I ended up falling face forward and hit the ground. The audience went WILD. Cheering, laughing, booing, yelling comments like “I love bacon” and “get her”… I didn’t care. I stood up. I spoke from my heart and I screamed because there was no time to be quiet. I screamed because I had been traumatized by what I saw and I couldn’t take it anymore. The cops tried to make it over the fence but it took them a minute. They finally made it over, grabbed me, cuffed me and took me out. I heard, “you’re a communist,” and, “I’m eating more bacon now!” as the police walked me to their car. Crystal and I both started screaming chants “ONE STRUGGLE, ONE FIGHT. HUMAN FREEDOM, ANIMAL RIGHTS!” Everyone went nuts.
Crystal recorded the whole thing and was assaulted by an older man (white, mid 50’s, white hair and beard, 6′-6’2″, around 300lbs wearing a navy blue sweater). He came up behind her and started pushing and elbowing her in the back. There was a female cop right next to her who did nothing and that’s a really serious issue. They watched hours of people tormenting animals and did nothing. They heard pigs screaming and humans laughing at them; and they did nothing. They heard Crystal screaming she was being harassed, and they did nothing. One person steps in to the ring to say ENOUGH to the violence and they get dragged off to the station? We need to start questioning laws that keep the innocent oppressed and the tormentors free and wild.
You could hear Crystal yelling “You would never do this to a cat, or to a dog,” and someone yelled back “We would if it was legal!” These are the people who think this event doesn’t hurt animals. These are the people who laugh as an animal is being abused. These are the people who applaud when a sentient being is shrieking from panic. These are the people who think this is a “family fun” event and these are the ONLY people who defend it.
It was dark by this time and all I could see were the flashing blue lights of the cop car coming to take me away. I kept telling the police that they were arresting the wrong person. “How could you watch that violence for hours and do nothing, until someone stood up and spoke out against it?” Crystal and I continued screaming chants as they put me into the back of their car. As soon as we drove away, I started sobbing. I was so emotionally distraught from all I had seen. I kept asking the cop if he understood our cause and his reply was textbook, “When I’m in his uniform, I have no option.” He told me there were better ways than breaking the law to get our point across. I told him there was no way I could watch another second with out doing something. We pulled into the station and I was brought out of the car and escorted inside. I was still sobbing and I told the police that I was not crying because I was scared, or intimidated by them. I told them I was crying because I couldn’t get the pigs screaming and everyone’s laughter out of my head. I was in total disbelief. They booked me, took my mugshot, finger prints and let me go. The whole process was an hour or less.
I believe that there’s a time to be quite, listen and ask; and there’s a time to stay respectful but get loud and start demanding. So that’s what we did. We demanded people see that this is wrong and that we won’t be silent about it. We demand that these violent, needless events end immediately. Not just in Ephrata PA, but anywhere animal chases are occurring. Whether a cat or a dog, a pig, a rooster or human; we need to be the reminder that we are ALL animals and ALL of our lives matter. We are no more deserving of respect, compassion and protection than any other species.
WE create the change we want to see, but not until we rise up and use our voices. Please use your voice today and help make sure this event is canceled indefinitely. Call and email the Ephrata fair and ask that they end all animals chasing events. Let us make sure the violence forced upon these animals, and ALL animals previous, was not in vain.
“We must always take a side. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel
Please contact the Ephrata fair and respectfully ask they end their animal chasing events indefinitely.
PHONE:: (717) 733-4451
Need help ending an animal chase in your area? Contact Defend_animals_always@yahoo.com.
PLEASE CHECK LINK BELOW FOR FULL NEWS ARTICLE AND OUR VIDEOS OF THE ARREST AND PIG CHASE::
Some search engine screen shots from the day after the event: