'Greasy Pig' contest cancelled after animal rights activists issue petition

The "Greasy Pig" contest, an annual crowd favourite at a small eastern Ontario fair, has been cancelled after animals rights activists and the province caught wind of it.

Fair organizers say $47,000 grant from province was 'threatened' if they didn't cancel

Jesce Cole, 2, chases a pig at the 2015 Greasy Pig contest in South Mountain, Ont. (Greg Cole/Facebook)

Kids, pigs and vegetable oil.

That pretty much sums up the "Greasy Pig" contest at the South Mountain Fair. 

Children between the ages of two and 11 have their hands greased with vegetable oil, chase seven piglets around a pen, and race to be the first kid to pull a pig into a hula hoop.

But the crowd favourite has been cancelled this year, after animal rights activists caught wind of it, and the small eastern Ontario fair feared it would lose provincial grant money. 

"It's very disappointing that this has been taken away," Paul Allan, the president of the South Mountain Fair, told CBC News.

"I'm very upset that it's someone outside of our township," Allan said. "These people from out of town that don't know where South Mountain is … I really have a hard time with that."

'Toronto Pig Save' not amused

The group "Toronto Pig Save" posted a petition earlier this week calling for the "horrifying" event to be shut down.

A group member told CBC News that it's "really wrong" for adults to set up an event that encourages an "abusive relationship" between pigs and kids.

"The pigs are absolutely terrified. They don't know what's happening to them. They're wrestled, they're fearful as crowds are screaming," said Anita Krajnc.

'Grease the kids, not the pigs'

But some parents and local townspeople don't see it that way.

"They grease up the kids, not the pigs," said Robyn Therriault, whose three-year-old son Jesce Cole participated in last year's event.

She added her son had "a lot of fun" last year, and that "he was really looking forward to it" on Saturday.

The fair's board members called an "emergency meeting" on Thursday afternoon and decided to cancel the event, after receiving a call from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport earlier in the day.

Allan said the fair relies on the $47,000 "Celebrate Ontario" grant it received from the ministry this year, and the board was worried that funding would be in jeopardy.

Provincial funding 'threatened,' says fair

"That's what they threatened us with," Allan told CBC News. "We would have had to return that money, and future grant approvals would have been looked at if the show was to go on."

Allan said he's disappointed that other board members decided to vote to cancel the event.

He said in the 12 years he's organized the Greasy Pig, he has always ensured the animals were properly cared for, watered, and kept out of the sun. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the ministry said it received a complaint from the public about the Greasy Pig event and shared it with the fair organizers.

"At no time was the fair's Celebrate Ontario grant in jeopardy," the ministry's statement said.