MORE than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling for pig racing to be scrapped at a Hampshire festival later this month.

Taking place over the weekend of August 18-19, the Cheese and Chilli Festival will see a host of events at Winchester’s Garrison Ground, with pig racing among them.

However, campaigners have been left cheesed off with organisers, claiming that the animals would be left frightened by the crowds and could suffer as a result of the current heatwave.

Set up by campaign group Pigs Don’t Race, the petition says: “Racing animals is cruel and exploitative. The festival plan to race pigs at their event... when temperatures are expected to be high.

“Racing is not natural behaviour for pigs and noisy crowds of people will be frightening for them. A race is not a suitable environment for the pigs, does not allow them to exhibit normal behaviour patterns and does not protect them from pain and suffering.

“The festival has lots of things happening and dropping the pig race and replacing it with something with willing participants would take nothing away from it.

“Sign now to appeal to Winchester Cheese and Chilli Festival to take the compassionate step and not force pigs to race at their event.”

The Winchester festival is just one of the events to have been targeted by the group, with a Facebook page featuring campaigns around the country.

Among those to have signed the petition was ‘Michael T’, who said: “Animals should not be forced to do things they would not do naturally when they want to do them. Please ban this ridiculous, inhumane event.”

‘Daphne D’ added: “These poor creatures should not be made to run in the heat to be jeered and yelled at for the benefit of a few half wits who think animals are ours to use and abuse.”

Meanwhile, Winchester resident Janet Pearce said she was “appalled to find that the organisers of this ‘foodie’ event feel the need to include pig racing”, adding: “This is the 21st century for goodness sake! Let’s have some respect for our fellow creatures!”

The Cheese and Chilli Festival will see crowds pack out the city’s Garrison Ground with events ranging from ‘Man v Food’ competitions and cooking demonstrations to live music and face painting.

Winchester marks the last stop for the event, which has been touring various locations around the south since early June.

Organisers have been approached about the petition, but had not responded at the time of going to press.