COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE) – For the fifth straight year, pig wrestling was a popular event at the Whitley County Fair. The event brings in thousands of fans each year, but opposition has also come out recently demanding that the event stop nationwide.

An online petition to cancel a pig wrestling tournament at the Whitley County Fair received more than 23,000 signatures. A petition to support the animal-versus-child wrestling has over 1,000 signatures.

Whitley County isn’t the only place where pig wrestling has faced opposition. Delaware County canceled pig wrestling at its fair earlier this month.

Supporters of the event in Whitley County said the animals are not abused.

“Being from an agricultural and rural community, we know how these animals are raised,” Jeff Geiger, the Whitley County 4-H President, said. “We know how to take care of them and we know what we’re doing here tonight. In no shape or form are we going to put those pigs in danger or those animals in jeopardy.”

The night consists of children, at least the age of nine, forming three or four person teams. Each team has 45 seconds to get a part of the pig to touch a tire that sits on top of a large container.

“We’ll be there monitoring everything,” Geiger said. “If anything looks remotely like it’ll injure the pig or a participant we blow the whistle and stop it.”

The pigs come from Kyle Bailey, who referees the night to make sure children don’t hurt the pigs, such as flip them over.

Suzie Sexton said the rules aren’t enough. “I call it animal abuse,” she said. “I don’t know why adults would ever dream this up. It’s not fair to the pig. The pigs are sweet, docile, and intelligent. Pigs would rather flee than fight.”

Geiger said the event would bring in a couple thousand fans. The event would also bring in as much as $12,000 for the 4-H club.

The NewsChannel 15 crew at the fairgrounds was not able to find Sexton or other protesters when the pig wrestling began.

Sexton believes the wrestling sends children the wrong message. “We’re teaching children to bully,” she said. “Get in a group and go at an individual. It’s an innocent pig that would rather be petted than wrestled.”

At least one county fair in the state did have a protester during the event. Reports say there was one protester at the Harrison County Fair in southern Indiana. Leaders with the fairgrounds there designated an area for that person to get their message out.

Pig wrestling is on the schedule for the upcoming Allen County Fair, according to its website.