Hogs and Dogs

by Brendan I. Koerner

There's controversy brewing in southern Mississippi, where Jackson County recently approved a hog-dog bay. That's an event in which a hunting dog corners a boar in a pen, to the ostensible delight of onlookers. To those who oppose the practice, it comes perilously close to an interspecies take on dogfighting; to its fans, it's simply a regional spin on rodeo. (Want to decide for yourself? Here's some video.)

Though the hearings on the bay brought out tons of heated emotions from animal-welfare advocates and hog-dog bayers alike, the outcome was never really in doubt. That's because the sport is actually enshrined in Mississippi's state code:

(2) It is unlawful for any person to organize or conduct any commercial event commonly referred to as a "catch" wherein there is a display of combat or fighting among one or more domestic or feral canines and feral or domestic hogs and in which it is intended or reasonably foreseeable that the canines or hogs would be injured, maimed, mutilated, or killed.

(3) It is unlawful for any person to organize, conduct or financially or materially support any event prohibited by this section.

(4) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any competitive event in which canines trained for hunting or herding activities are released in an open or enclosed area to locate and corner hogs, commonly referred to as a "bay event," and in which competitive points are deducted if a hog is caught and held.

As supporters of hog-dog baying readily admit, accidents do happen. Yet is that risk reason enough to ban the activity?

Given my affection for meat, I always feel morally unqualified to tackle animal-welfare quandaries. I'm a confessed city slicker, so I'll probably never grok the pleasure to be had in watching a dog chase a hog. But does baying's policy of preventing bloodshed make it no more immoral than standard rodeo events? (I won't draw the mixed martial arts comparison, because human competitors have a lot more choice in the matter.)

I'm seriously on the fence about this, so hoping the learned Coates commentariat can chime in and assist.

See also: Microkhan on the morality of zoos.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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