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The Pig Rassle event took place Sunday at the 44th Annual St. Patrick Catholic Church Roundupin Stephensville. / Wm.Glasheen/Post-Crescent Media

STEPHENSVILLE, Wis. -- An animal rights group is accusing a Catholic church northwest of Appleton, Wisconsin of breaking state animal cruelty laws and endangering children during a recent pig wrestling event.

The group, an international animal protection organization called SHARK, said it has video showing St. Patrick Catholic Church's "Pig Rassling" event last weekend demonstrated cruelty to animals, animal fighting and child neglect.

SHARK President and Founder Steve Hindi said the video shows at least one pig being injured and children being encouraged to wallow in mud contaminated with animal feces and urine. Under state law, spectators, organizers and participants could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, he said.

The group plans to show the video during a press conference Thursday at a Green Bay, Wisconsin hotel.

"If you had people of color who were fighting their dogs in Green Bay they would be charged, but now you have white people jumping on pigs and mobbing them but they don't get charged because they're with the church," Hindi said.

Also Thursday, Hindi said he will deliver the evidence to Bishop David Ricken of the Green Bay Catholic Diocese, which has its offices located near the hotel. He said he will also offer up a "special alternative event" and the cash to fund it if Ricken agrees to cancel any future pig wrestling events.

Hindi would not provide more details on Wednesday.

On Friday, an online petition at change.org had more than 48,000 signatures calling for the cancellation of the Pig Rassle in Stephensville, an unincorporated community about 15 miles northwest of Appleton. On Wednesday, the number of signatures reached more than 67,000 as the Global Conservation Group posted news updates to generate support for continued protests.

The event last Sunday - part of the community's 44th annual Roundup Days hosted by St. Patrick Parish - was a fundraiser for the Roman Catholic parish and also includes Mass, dinner, parade, raffles and a live band.

The diocese did not immediately return messages Wednesday.

Ken Bilgrien, a deacon at St. Patrick, last week disputed the claims against the long-standing event and insisted it is not an animal fight. A statement posted on the church's website says the parish does not condone animal abuse.

"We fill the stands with hundreds of people. Are you kidding that our own parishioners would allow us to pound the pig in the head with a hammer?" Bilgrien said. "In 44 years, we've never injured a pig."

The parish also cleared the event with the sheriff's department and double-checked with the state attorney general that it remains legal. Pig wrestling events occur in other parts of Wisconsin and throughout the country.

"It's strictly fun," Bilgrien said. "We do have two to three adult men, usually pretty strong guys, they're in there not only to be sure the contestants are safe, but also for the pigs."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Animal rights group pokes Wis. church for 'Pig Rassle'

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