Japan’s Pig Rodeo – Animal Cruelty or Just Plain Fun?

Although pigs aren’t exactly known for their speed and stamina, the people of Mikame, in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture seem to think they’re the perfect animals to ride.

Ehime Prefecture has been known as Japan’s pork production capital for a long time, and 25 years ago someone thought it would be a great idea to celebrate by riding hogs in a unique event known as Pig Rodeo. Part of the annual Seiyo City Mikame Summer Festival, the crazy event has been a popular tourist attraction, but to most of the western world it remained a mystery until 2009, when a YouTube video was picked up by a number of media outlets. There was a lot of controversy surrounding pig rodeo, at the time, and someone even started an online petition to get it banned, but in the last two years there were hardly any stories written on the subject.

So what it pig rodeo, anyway? Well, it’s a lot like horse rodeo, only unlike horses, hogs weren’t built to be ridden by full-grown men and women looking to do something crazy and have a good laugh. the riders, wearing helmets and knee pads, mount the hogs in a small enclosure, before they are released in an arena, around 30 meters in diameter. The goal is to stay on the pig for as long as possible, but that’s a lot harder than it sounds. While some may consider them simple piles of lard, pigs are pretty darn fast, and when they’re trying to shake you off their back it’s practically impossible to hold on for more than a few seconds. Most riders fall of after just two seconds, and in many cases the best time is under five seconds. The winner of the annual pig rodeo wins ¥50,000.

Ten pigs are usually used in a pig rodeo event, and while organizers swear they don’t mind being ridden by twenty men and twenty women, I’d say pigs, being the very intelligent animals that they are, would have some objections. It’s just my opinion, but I think they’d prefer to just sleep and wallow in mud than suffer the indignity of carrying humans on their backs in front of hundreds of cheering spectators. I have no problem with eating pork, I actually love it, but do we really have to stress them out like this, just for fun?