SOUTH MOUNTAIN — South Mountain Fair organizers believed that provincial dollars were on the line when they chopped the greasy pig contest amid an animal rights campaign last week.
In the leadup to the Fair, the online campaign and petition by Toronto Pig Save was turning up the heat on the Mountain Township Agricultural Society, which was otherwise set to proceed with the popular children’s contest. An Ottawa-based group even planned to protest at the venue.
But it wasn’t until a Kingston-based official with Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport called Society members that the event was cancelled during an emergency board meeting on the Fair’s opening day, Society President Paul Allan confirmed for Nation Valley News.
The ministry is responsible for the annual Celebrate Ontario grant received by the Fair.
However, Denelle Balfour, media spokeswoman for Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Sport, made clear the Fair’s 2016 Celebrate Ontario grant of $47,913 was never in jeopardy after the ministry received “a complaint” from a member of the public. “Staff at the ministry shared the complaint with fair organizers,” Balfour wrote in an email. “The ministry was later informed that the fair’s organizing board decided to cancel the contest. 2016 Celebrate Ontario funding was approved to support a variety of enhancements to the South Mountain fair not related to the contest. At no time was the fair’s Celebrate Ontario grant in jeopardy.”
At the fairgrounds last Saturday — right around the time the Greasy Pig contest would have been held — Allan suggested some of his board colleagues voted out of fear of losing grants.
“If money was not involved, many, many people would have put their hand up” to keep the contest, reported Allan. The decision to cancel was not unanimous, he said.
He said he was called by the ministry’s Blair Harris of the Kingston office, last Thurs., Aug. 18. “He talked to me for about half an hour, basically wanting an answer, and I told him we were continuing the show,” said Allan. About an hour later, the emergency board meeting was in session — called by another member of the Society who had been contacted by Harris as well, according to Allan.
Harris did not return Nation Valley News’s call.
The Greasy Pig contest “was my baby,” said the president, who founded the event 13 years ago. “I looked forward to seeing the kids’ and parents’ smiling faces every year. It’s all about the kids. It’s a family fair.”
Allan, who says he was emailed and called by hundreds of animal rights supporters around North America, rhetorically asked what was next. Will Greenpeace call for the end of the truck pulls because of the black exhaust? Will the animal rights groups target the poultry show next year?
“Well, absolutely, we oppose animal agriculture in all forms,” Toronto Pig Save’s Anita Krajnc told Nation Valley News when asked about the concept of a traditional poultry show.
Describing the keeping of animals as “slavery,” Krajnc said the group was “happy” at the Greasy Pig contest’s kibosh in South Mountain. “These kinds of contests have been cancelled all over North America,” she said.
Asked to clarify further if the Fair’s future grant opportunities could have been jeopardized by a vote to keep the contest this year, Balfour replied by email: “Recipients of Celebrate Ontario funding are required to adhere to all local, provincial and federal laws and regulations in hosting their event. If we are informed of a recipient violating any laws or regulations we will reassess their funding accordingly.”
The Fair is “welcome” to apply for more Celebrate Ontario funding next year, Balfour wrote.