Protesters pursuing charges against pig wrestlers who physically forced them from ring at county fair

Posted at 5:46 PM, Aug 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-13 19:47:10-04

UTAH COUNTY --- A pig wrestling match turned into a scuffle between animal activists and the wrestlers at the Utah County Fair Wednesday night, and on Thursday those activists are looking to file charges against a team of wrestlers, who they said violently pushed them out of the ring.

The activists said what was meant to be a peaceful protest turned violent, all because they say they were trying to protect pigs from being beaten, demonized and brutalized.

"We're here to stop violence, and we get violence in return," said Joseph Peters, who is an animal activist with the group Direct Action Everywhere.

Dressed as clowns, four animal activists with the group Direct Action Everywhere entered the pig ring. But instead of wrestling the pigs, the four men held up signs defending the animals.

“Of course we got the reaction I expected," said Benjamin Peters, who was among those who protested. "I expected people to throw mud and boo, but what I didn't expect is what happened afterwards."

When they wouldn't leave the ring, the activists said a competing team began attacking them and spectators captured video of the moment.

“He wanted to floor me, he wanted to put me on the ground as hard as he could,” said Don Ruark, an animal activist with the group Direct Action Everywhere.

“Shortly after I got pushed, and I look over to the left and see my brother tossed--body slammed to the floor,” Joseph Peters said.

“He grabbed my legs and flipped me up over the fence, and I hit my neck and slammed my back on the floor,” Benjamin Peters added.

All four of the protesters said they feel the actions of those wrestlers was uncalled for, but the fair says the protesters broke the rules by staying in the pig ring for more than the 60 seconds they were allowed.

“When their time ran out they refused to leave, so one of the teams went in and helped them out,” said Mike Stansfield, who is the Utah County Fair Director.

But the protesters said staying in the ring longer should not make them a target of attack.

“I don't know how us standing there an extra ten seconds to get notoriety to no more violence for animals allows somebody to pick someone up and body slam them,” Ruark said.

The fair director agrees it could and should have been handled differently.

“Obviously that's not the ideal way to handle it, and I don't think the kids who were involved with it really gave it much thought," Stansfield said. "They just thought: 'It's my turn, and I ought to be able to get in and participate.'"

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating the incident.

Utah County says they have no plans to cancel the pig wrestling event in the future, and activists said as long as the event continues, they'll be there protesting.