California fair organizers, citing animal welfare concerns, do away with 'pig scramble' in favor of watermelon event, report says

They will be scrambling for pigs no more.

Organizers of California's Sonoma County Fair say one of the event's decades-old traditions -- a contest in which children try to catch 40 to 60-pound piglets for prizes -- will be scrapped this year because of growing public concerns about the humane treatment of animals, the Press Democrat newspaper reports. Instead, children on Aug. 4 will try to carry watermelons slathered in vegetable oil around an obstacle course in a race against the clock.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Annette O’Kelley, a fair board member and chairwoman of its agriculture committee, told the newspaper. “We don’t want to see any of the animals get stressed out or hurt.”

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The decision has been hailed by animal rights activists -- but not everyone is thrilled about swapping the pigs for fruit.

Maddie Vanoni, a 15-year-old who has participated in the event in the past, told the Press Democrat that she was "absolutely shocked" by the change.

“You’re showing these city kids what it’s like to be on a farm,” she said, adding that she never saw a pig hurt during the contest.

A PETA caseworker though told the newspaper that the new watermelon event "shows there’s always a creative option to animal cruelty."

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Rob Muelrath, the president of the fair's board, says the elimination of the pig scramble event reflects a "heightened awareness" toward calls for the proper treatment of farm animals.

“If we can do our part to protect animals as well as educate kids about agriculture it’s a win for everyone," he told the Press Democrat.

Fox News’ Kira Grant contributed to this report.