We are sending the wrong message

Daniel Webster wrote that our beloved Old Man of the Mountain (may he rest in peace) was God Almighty’s signal to others that in New Hampshire, “He makes men.”

Which begs the question, what makes a man, and what is strength?

We, as adults, have an obligation to teach our youth how to be strong, compassionate, ethical citizens of this state, this country and this world. And strength includes kindness to others – not just humans, but to all beings with whom we share this earth.

As an educator, I have spent innumerable hours coaching young people to be kind, to consider the feelings of others of all species and to make ethical decisions.

Unfortunately, when it comes to one particular New Hampshire tradition – pig scrambles – New Hampshire’s children are being sent mixed signals about what it means to be strong, ethical and kind. Prior to last fall, I was unaware of this tradition, which is a standard event in the upcoming Cheshire Fair in August. My initial reaction to pig scrambles – wherein children and adults chase piglets, grab them by the hind legs and stuff them into sacks – was shock and dismay. However, I wanted to be fair and balanced before formulating an opinion on this issue, so I did what most educators would do and spent some time educating myself on the issue and researching pigs.

Did you know pigs are actually quite similar to humans? So similar that their heart valves can function in human bodies and their skin can be grafted, like a second skin, to help ours heal after burns. Like humans, their hearts are nestled between their lungs.

They have been known to cuddle with their partners after mating. Piglets can recognize their mothers’ voices and are highly sensitive and intelligent. They are clean animals who like to keep their sleeping area separate from their bathroom area. They dream, they socialize, they form relationships, they drink the milk of their mothers and they are intelligent. In fact, according to Professor Donald Bloom at Oxford University, pigs “have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly 3-year-olds.”

Which makes me wonder, would we throw a bunch of 3-year-old children into a pen, unleash many unfamiliar adults on them, chase them around, grab them by their legs and shove them into sacks? Of course not. And yes, I am aware that this is an extreme example. However, would people stand for a puppy scramble? Or a kitten scramble? Maybe this would not be allowed because kittens and puppies have the ability to defend themselves with their sharp teeth and claws and the children would get hurt.

Why is it then that we are teaching children to frighten smaller, weaker, defenseless beings? Isn’t this what we fight against every day in our zero tolerance anti-bullying efforts?

My strong fellow New Hampshirites, I ask you to consider: What kind of a lesson is this for our kids, our future leaders? By allowing them to participate in a pig scramble, what values are we teaching them? To scare and hurt those smaller and more vulnerable than themselves?

I am appalled by this practice and expect more from all of us, the role models of New Hampshire’s children. Let’s show our children what real strength looks like.

Please join with me in protecting New Hampshire’s children from this senseless and harmful event.

Contact the Cheshire Fair Committee and ask them to remove pig scrambles from their agenda. Email them at info@cheshirefair.org or http://www.cheshirefair.org/contact-us. A protest of the pig scramble also will be taking place at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday outside of the main gates.

For more information, contact twinstatesanimallib@gmail.com.

Victoria Barger is a resident of Manchester.