Group Charges Pig Abuse at Valmy Thresheree Event

An email arrived in the Pulse inbox last week from a woman identified only as Beth. The subject line read: STOP.

Her message said this: “Your pig wrestling event must not take place. Pigs ARE sensitive, they FEEL, they are SMART. The public DOES NOT CONDONE ABUSE AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU. Please change your current plan of abuse. Thank you.”

Since the Pulse has no plans for a pig wrestling event, we had to assume Beth was referring to the pig wrestling that takes place on the last day of the Valmy Thresheree, Aug. 21.

Photo by Len Villano.

Photo by Len Villano.

It turns out Beth and more than 50,000 other people have signed a petition on to stop pig wrestling at the Thresheree. The petition was started by the Madison-based Alliance for Animals and the Environment.

“We’ve been working on pig wrestling this whole summer and looking at what events are still happening in Wisconsin,” said Sara Andrews, executive director of the Alliance for Animals and the Environment. “There has actually been a huge decrease in these events. It’s dropped from 14 a few years ago to just four or five now.”

The group began its summer campaign against pig wrestling by focusing on an annual event held at the Stoughton Fair. A petition with more than 8,000 signatures prompted a Stoughton alderman to propose a resolution that was passed unanimously to ban the pig wrestling event. The resolution included an offer of $6,000 from the city to help offset money the event raises for the fair, but there was also a motivation from the alderman who said if the organizers did not voluntarily stop the event, he would introduce an ordinance that would ban pig wrestling.

“We’d really like to see pig wrestling stopped in the whole state of Wisconsin,” Andrews said. “I think one of the biggest issues is that the [state] cruelty law is written very broadly. I think the idea of cruelty, unfortunately, is somewhat objective. What we see, as people who care deeply about animals, as cruelty, others don’t define as such. It’s kind of clear that it’s cruel, but there’s different perspectives on that. We would like to see a very clear law like the one in Minnesota that specifically bans pig wrestling [Minnesota has had a law in place since 1971 that makes contests of chasing pigs, chickens or turkeys a misdemeanor].”

On Aug. 2, the group sent a letter to Door County District Attorney Ray Pelrine, asking him to stop the event under Wisconsin statute 951.02, mistreating animals.

“I just don’t see what I understand to be pig wrestling to be something that fits the definition of cruel maltreatment,” Pelrine said. “I just don’t. To be honest, if it did, my goodness, there would be hundreds of people in every community in Door County guilty of that for what their toddler children do to their pets, or what adults even do to their pets or their neighbors’ pets.”

Photo by Len Villano.

Photo by Len Villano.

In addition to the letter, Pelrine said he has received “dozens of emails from people all over North America” asking that the event be stopped. He adds that he was not alone. He mentions an email exchange that all 72 of the state’s district attorneys are connected to in order to quickly ask questions and share information.

“Suddenly Monday afternoon (Aug. 1), numerous DAs are asking, ‘Hey, are any of you getting hit with people asking you to stop pig wrestling events in your county?’ It all happened right away,” Pelrine said.

And what does he intend to do?

“I’m going to be doing nothing,” he said. “First off, I’m an elected district attorney. I’m not a person who runs events or fairs or anything like that. It’s not my job to stop events. I just don’t do that. I also don’t prescribe conduct before it happens. For example, it used to be rather common for folks to contact my office and ask, ‘If we did this would it be legal?’ I’d have to say, no offense, I can’t be giving out legal advice, and I’m a criminal prosecutor, which means I review law enforcement investigations after things have happened. I can’t prescribe conduct for folks. So whatever conduct they’re talking about, it’s not my job to step in and say, ‘This is the DA calling. You’ve got to stop this’.”

“It’s not the first time. This happens every year,” said Ralph Bochek, organizer of the pig wrestling, about the petition. “It’s a few people, one tenth of one percent, that tries to control the rest of the world. It’s somebody who’s never been at one, somebody who’s never met us. I had one talk to me about six months ago who said dairy farmers are cruel for killing cows for their milk. That’s how uninformed they were. Most of them are really, really uninformed. They get on a bandwagon somewhere. We really do take care of our hogs.”

What does he say to those who claim pig wrestling is cruel?

“Well, we take better care of the pigs than the wrestlers. We’ve never had a pig that was hurt,” Bochek said. “And, by the way, these pigs are on the way to the slaughterhouse. We give them a week reprieve. If it wasn’t for us, they’d be in the cooler. But guess what? They’re going to be there Monday (the day after the event).”


Article Comments

  • Lynn Pauly

    Mr. Bochek is uninformed. Fifty-one thousand people want the Thresheree’s pig wrestling event to be canceled. I’m being generous in saying that perhaps one thousand people will participate in and/or observe the pig wrestling event at the Valmy Thresheree. I hardly see that as “one-tenth of a percent” trying to change the world. 51,000 vs 1,000. Do you get that? Let’s keep this conversation on this event and stop generalizing random statistics.

    What percent of “the world” participates in and/or approves of pig wrestling? That amount is probably closer to “one-tenth of a percent” (probably less).

    Regarding the comment about dairy farmers, he is the uneducated one here. On a dairy farm, female calves are raised to become dairy cows and male calves are raised and slaughtered for meat. So, yes, by the dairy industry is directly responsible for killing cows. They raise male calves to be killed.

    And what a callous statement, insinuating that the pigs who are being chased around a pen are enjoying their “week reprieve”. That is nonsense. This is an ugly event and Door County should be ashamed to be taking part in it.

    • Sr

      These pigs are running not because they think they are in an immature game …. they feel threatened …. inciting fear in any living being is cruelty … end of story .

      • Sr

        Well said Lynn Pauly .

  • Hannah Montcolly

    Nice to hear Mr Bochek is so in touch with reality and the greater good around him. Yes these pigs may very well be off to the slaughterhouse but is that any reason to demean them further? Mr Bochek gives a wonderful portrayal of the ignorance and stupidity that surrounds bullies and tormentors. I hope he never finds himself in a position where he is of no consequence to anyone.

    • Bentleythecat

      Well said Hannah! Maybe Mr Bochek should be tortured before his final days. In his words it doesn’t matter if you are tortured before you die. Karma.

  • Jake

    Do they really feel the need to abuse animals for entertainment? Why not use another source? People are so money hungry in that county. Get a real day job to pay your bills like other taxpayers.

  • SeekingBalance

    We have a week planned in Door County in October. This is making me reconsider the trip. In the least, we won’t go anywhere near Valmy. But we’ll cancel our reservations (at a lodge in Sister Bay) if decent folks up there can’t encourage event organizers to do the right thing

    • Harold F Power

      I love the beauty of Door County, but to play this game.. I too have cancelled my yearly stay. Nope my approx 5K of vacation money usually spent for the 4 of us will find another city to stay in this October. Until you play lets wrestle humans and not animals, I am gone.

      • FedUp

        Thanks Harold! Nothing carries a clearer message than the wallet!

  • Martha

    And they torture the dogs and cats headed to Yulin for their “festival” for weeks and months before hand, instead of slaughtering them and shipping the meat. How gracious of them!
    We are NO better than China.

  • Bentleythecat

    Door County was such a beautiful place in my mind. Now that I have read this my entire opinion has changed. What kind of people can actually not see the wrong in this? Wrestling down an animal till it can’t move? How is that ok? Where is their conscious? Mr. Bochek, I hope you do not have any pets. I can’t imagine how you would treat them.

  • Court

    So let me get this straight… because they get an extra week from being slaughtered, that somehow excuses animal cruelty? Riiight.

    Also, “tradition” doesn’t make it right. It was traditional to own slaves too but you don’t see that happening in the free and modern world, do you? Being blind to your own cruelty doesn’t mean that cruelty doesn’t exist.

  • 4windsrider

    Even on a “practical ” level it makes no sense to increase the adrenaline in an animal that is going to slaughter. Stress hormones decrease the quality of the final “product” and most large slaughter facilities have spent big money to design kill floors that are as “stressless” and calming as possible. The organizer of this event, Mr. Bochek, is clearly kind of a “back-yard” pork guy and makes his ignorance very obvious to anyone reading his comments in the article.

  • Kathryn L

    Animal cruelty is animal cruelty. Tormenting pigs for human entertainment is simply wrong, and this event teaches children that it is okay. Shame on you, Door County, and on the adults in charge of and/or attending this disgusting event. People all over the world are recognizing cruelty and inhumane treatment of animals, so it’s not over. You will keep hearing about it, Look what has happened to bullfighting, cock-fighting, dog-fighting, using elephants in circuses. Sooner or later people get a clue – in your case, I guess, it will be later, but don’t think the pressure will let up bc it won’t. Kathryn Nathan

    • Sandi Rocks

      Great response, Kathryn! Only coming from ignorance and inhumanity could anyone honestly believe that this terrifying experience for pigs could be felt as a “reprieve.” Apparently in this age of “What shall we do next for our entertainment,” some of us feel the need to prove our evolutionary superiority by tormenting other beings. But wait, lets make sure we pick on those who are unable to say no, unable to escape this kind of immature, back-country free-for-all insanity. Look again at the photo taken by Len Villano and tell me the pig is enjoying this “game.” Door County, you should be ashamed. I hope someone is able to stop you and this sad, disgraceful event – forever!

  • Susan Fong

    Pigs are highly intelligent and sensitive beings. Pig wrestling subjects these sentient beings to intense fear, stress, and the potential for serious physical injury. I am tired of people exploiting animals in degrading forms of mindless “entertainment”. It is not “entertainment” for the pigs. It is horror for them!

  • Linda B

    Frightening and tormenting any animal for entertainment is cruel and inhumane and a bad example for our children. Something is wrong with people that do this. I would not visit a town that does this.

  • Mary

    Oh good Lord. “We’re giving them a week reprieve”!?! What in the world is he thinking? It’s bad enough that the slaughter industry is inhumane. And that their last days and hours are going to be filled with fear. They shouldn’t have this added to the end of their lives. Shame shame shame. Once again, I feel ashamed to be human. My only hope is that karma will strike these people. This just has to stop. Get your kicks without animals in the mix.

  • Lisa Cannella Stuart

    Ray Pelrine’s statements are disappointing and frightening as well. Is this how his family treats pets? Perhaps they should be investigated for animal cruelty concerns. He obviously is afraid to do his job. Ray Bocheck -the wrestlers are there by choice. Your choosing to demean and terrorize animals prior to slaughter is disgusting. It
    is a shame these two “humans” have any kind of power over any living creatures.

    • SeekingBalance

      He lost his position in the last election. Maybe there’s a connection to that and his callous disregard here.

  • Claire Chase

    I was sad to read Mr. Bochek’s comments at the end of the article. Pigs just live from day to day, they don’t know that they will meet death in a week, so a week’s reprieve from death means nothing to them. However, facing a wrestling match….that would be terrifying to a pig. We know more about animals than ever before. No one wants to be cruel to animals that will eventually feed us. Please stop this cruelty. Thank you very much.

  • Mike McNally

    Pig wrestling (I can’t believe we’re actually talking about this) should not exist, especially in 2016. Is there NO other form of entertainment in the area? Must people handle pigs this way, even if they are about to be slaughtered? That being the case, we should show them a tiny amount of dignity before we take them for food. Hire a band. Bring in a comedian. DO ANYTHING BUT THIS. I’m not some “outsider” from the coast trying to tell people in WI how to live; I’ve lived here almost my entire life! This is outrageous and must stop now!

  • Tracy Wundrock

    I implore you cancel the pig wrestling event this year and permanently ban these practices going forward.

    It is sadistic and cruel to subject a helpless animal to this kind of emotional and physical abuse. It is also illegal.

    Chapter 951.02 of Wisconin law states the following:

    “Mistreating animals. No person may treat any animal, whether belonging to the person or another, in a cruel manner.”

    The statute defines “animal” as “every living warm-blooded creature”. There is no exemption for pigs, sheep, and bulls.

    These are intelligent, sentient beings. They experience fear and pain just like humans do. Would you do this to a dog? Would you do this to your own children? Of course not, because it’s barbaric. This isn’t the Middle Ages. Surely you can think of think of some other activity for the event that does involve torturing and humiliating animals.

    If you proceed with this horrible practice at your event, I will never spend another dime with businesses in your back-ass hamlet again.

    It’s time to EVOLVE.

  • Kyle Frazier

    Ralph Bochek’s comment, “And, by the way, these pigs are on the way to the slaughterhouse. We give them a week reprieve. If it wasn’t for us, they’d be in the cooler. But guess what? They’re going to be there Monday (the day after the event).” is just another example of the ignorant barbarity of mankind. If he had done his homework he would know that the stress hormones that the pigs produce in this event actually ruins the flavor and texture of the meat. As if that excuse would be needed when animal abuse and cruelty is already more than enough a reason to shut the whole event.

  • These beautiful creatures are one of the most intelligent, gentle animals. Stop the cruelty, and treat them with compassion.

  • Megan Woodall

    Chasing terrified pigs is far from entertainment. How can Mr. Bochek ignore 51,000 people?

  • GeveryC

    It is really hard to comprehend. This is cruel and has absolutely no place in a civilized society. Live and let live, but for real!

  • Do you people have nothing better to do with your time than chase after a helpless animal that is scared to death?

    It’s time we progress beyond barbaric behavior like this and focus our energy towards something that is going to better society and better our nation.

  • katie

    This, and other events like it are not family friendly entertainment- what in the world do we want to teach our children? That being cruel and taunting to a helpless animal is in good character and fun? It is unethical, inhumane and cruel. Who in the world finds it entertaining to torment and chase down scared animals (of any kind)? That type of person scares me, quite frankly. How we treat the most vulnerable (elderly, children, or a penned in animal- for instance) shows much more of our character as a society. This should not be deemed acceptable and people need to find a better, more educated way to entertain themselves and their families. This doesn’t, nor shouldn’t be the type of thing a place like Door County finds fun. With so many more diverse and artistically cultural activities to offer, we should find other ways to enjoy summertime fun. Please, end this pig wrestling event once and for all. It truly reflects poorly on Door County and anyone that participates in it.

    • Les Cunningham

      Very well put, katie.

    • Leigh Ann Wagner Kroening

      Beautifully said, Katie!

  • Sharon Baker-Kirby

    If the turkey drop in my state was wrong so is pig wrestling! Animals should not be tortured.

  • jamila

    Views along the lines Mr. Bochek’s are self-absorbed and callous, completely compassionless. It’s a shame Door County allows men like Mr. Bochek to give a face to Wisconsin, most certainly not the sort of human one would want representing one’s state. While it might be out of the District Attorney’s purview to stop the event before it happens, Mr. Pelrine could certainly bring animal abuse charges after the event, thereby stopping the archaic “sport” of pig wrestling in the 21st century.

  • Dora Ponce

    A week reprieve? You’ve got to be kidding! This Bochek guy is a bit throwed off.

  • Annie P.

    To Pelrine and Bochek: Disgusting, primitive, callous, and inaccurate, (etc.) attitudes and comments like yours are what’s helping to retard progress in the county and nation. Whether you believe it qualifies as abuse isn’t relevant because it IS abuse. (Should death row inmates also be put under similar circumstances?)

    Along those lines, what people do to their pets in the privacy of their homes is also irrelevant and not a good point of reference: This event advocates for animal abuse, period.

    Let the backwards residents who enjoy such events find something else to do.

  • Slytherin

    If anyone who believes that pig wrestling is not animal cruelty, I would issue this challenge: look – really LOOK in the eyes of the animal in the photo above and tell me what you see. I see fear; primal, raw, unequivocal fear. How someone can look at this photo and think this event is OK is beyond my comprehension.

  • Les Cunningham

    “And, by the way, these pigs are on the way to the slaughterhouse. We
    give them a week reprieve. If it wasn’t for us, they’d be in the cooler.
    But guess what? They’re going to be there Monday (the day after the
    Are you kidding me? This has got to be one of the most ignorant comments I have ever read. And no, I don’t eat meat and have not for 44 years.

  • Gracie

    I understand from both perspectives, but am really sad for the pigs — both going to the slaughterhouse and being chased. I may be dreaming, but is there any way at all to rescue them and send them to some kind of sanctuary? Ughh the fact that these cute piggies are destined for death either way breaks my heart. 🙁

    • BrendaCatty

      You aren’t dreaming, Gracie. You can’t rescue these particular pigs, but, if you stop eating animals and animal products (or, at least, cut way down as much as possible on your consumption) you will be saving future pigs from having to suffer these sickening horrors.

      • Judy Orr

        I can’t beat anyone’s comments here – they’re all on point. I’ve cut way down on meat consumption & I no longer purchase pork products in stores, although once in a blue moon I’ll order from a restaurant. Pork was my favorite meat but once I realized how mistreated these intelligent animals are, I’ve cut down my pork consumption 99%. Wish I could go 100% vegetarian, tried it but fell back. However, I’m more aware of the meat I purchase – I go free range organic and try to buy using the Animal Welfare Rating system when possible. Never thought about any of this years back but the Internet has brought us the reality of farm animal treatment.

        • BrendaCatty

          I applaud your decision to cut down on meat as much as possible! Every single change that people make–will amount to less suffering for animals. For anyone who doubts that these animals suffer–please check out the Mercy For Animals website and watch the undercover investigations that have been done. There isn’t one investigation–not one, where the animals have not been brutalized and tortured. They are hard to watch but, I suggest that anyone who eats meat and dairy–see what happens to them before they “become your food”.

  • Sandy Hummel

    It is Unbelievable to me that civilized human beings are sanctioning this cruel and abusive event with live pigs that have no voice. If Mr. Bochek is interested in “entertainment” for the public, and if he feels that the public wants mud wrestling, why not create an event for people to mud wrestle each other. He could charge a small fee to participants for the event, and donate the money for a charitable cause. This certainly is more admirable and would be just as “entertaining”. Pig Wrestling is animal abuse, plain and simple. It should not be legal, and it is certainly cruelty.

  • Sheri Stapleton-Hewitt

    Sickening and selfish.

  • BrendaCatty

    I am not sure that I have read anything, in the recent past, as cold, insensitive and downright sickening as Ralph Bochek’s comments:
    “Well, we take better care of the pigs than the wrestlers. We’ve never
    had a pig that was hurt,” Bochek said. “And, by the way, these pigs are
    on the way to the slaughterhouse. We give them a week reprieve. If it
    wasn’t for us, they’d be in the cooler. But guess what? They’re going to
    be there Monday (the day after the event).”

    So, you are saying that you frighten, terrorize, slam them to the ground, cause them pain and injuries and this is supposed to give them a reprieve from what is next in line, the slaughterhouse???!!!

    Mr. Bochek, did you ever consider, before they go to their ultimate horror and death, that you could show them just how kind human beings could be–instead of how horrible????