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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- An animal rights group known for taking undercover video of events it says depict animal cruelty has vowed legal action against the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, a local parish priest, county sheriff and dozens of others involved in a church-sponsored pig wrestling event.

Members of the animal protection organization called SHARK released video footage Thursday it claims depicts animal abuse, animal fighting and child neglect at the St. Patrick Catholic Church's "Pig Rassling" event in Stephensville, Wisconsin last weekend. The event - part of the community's 44th annual Roundup Days - is a fundraiser for the parish.

The group released 15 minutes of video showing what looks like an injured pig limping away from a group of participants as they continue to chase the animal.

It also shows multiple pigs being jumped on and sometimes dropped from several feet in the air as the animals run away squealing and panting. It also shows pigs urinating and defecating in the mud, which covers the bodies and sometimes faces of participants, including children.

Limping is a sign of injury and panting is a sign of "extreme physical duress" that can lead to a heart attack in pigs, said animal activist Corinne DiLorenzo of E.A.R.T.H Animal Sanctuary, which rescues abused and abandoned pigs, roosters and rabbits in central Illinois.

"If this were happening to a cat or a dog, not one person would be cheering it on," said DiLorenzo, who helped SHARK President and Founder Steve Hindi record the pig wrestling event.

Hindi walked into the diocese office with a DVD of the video footage and thousands of dollars in cash saying Bishop David Ricken could have the money if he takes the place of the pigs at the event with the parish priest and other event organizers.

"We're talking about cold, hard cash, which is apparently what's important to them over upholding the law and ethics," Hindi said.

Diocese spokeswoman Justine Lodl asked Hindi to put his offer and comments in writing so she could present it along with the video to Ricken for review. Lodl declined to answer interview questions, but later released a statement saying the church took measures to ensure the pigs were safe.

"After consultation with local law authorities, it was determined that there was nothing illegal associated with this event," she wrote. "St. Patrick Parish does not condone animal abuse."

Advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement Thursday saying the videos depicts cruelty that is "completely contrary to Jesus' teachings of compassion for the meekest among us."

"The conduct in your parish's name last Sunday showed none of the respect or gentleness toward these pigs that the Church teaches that we owe them, and surely the parish can find other ways to raise funds than by subjecting animals to such a spectacle of needless suffering," said Sarah Withrow King, PETA director of Christian outreach

Hindi said St. Patrick parish should close, the bishop should be replaced and all participants in the event should be prosecuted. He said he intends to take his case to the state Attorney General's office.

"We have evidence of I don't know how many dozens of people involved in 36 cases of felony animal abuse, animal fighting. Am I going to walk away from that? Absolutely not," he said.

The annual Pig Rassle in Stephensville, an unincorporated community about 15 miles northwest of Appleton, has received a national spotlight over the past week as high-profile animal rights groups began claiming its a clear case of animal fighting and cruelty.

In response to numerous calls, the Outagamie County Sheriff's Office said prior to the event it does not amount to animal abuse.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Pig wresting event hurt animals, rights group says

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