Would-be buckaroos took part in their last pig rodeo in Seiyo, Ehime Prefecture, Saturday after organizers of the long-held festival decided to shut it down following criticism it was a form of animal abuse.

The festival, held almost every year for the past 25 years, was so popular the number of applicants to ride the pigs greatly surpassed the spots available, organizers said.

In the final competition, 40 people, males and females aged from 12 to 53, tried their luck at swine riding. Most were bucked off in less than three seconds.

The contestants came from the vicinity and from as far away as Fukushima, Hyogo and Kochi prefectures.

The event was started in 1989 by local residents, including hog farmers, to promote their community. But the organizers decided to end the festival not only because of the outcry from animal-rights activists, but also because of the continued drop in local pig farmers and difficulty raising funds for the event.

"I've been familiar with pigs from childhood and I don't think its animal abuse. I'm worried that absence of the event will mean the absence of something through which we can promote our community," said 66-year-old Tsuyoshi Maeda, chairman of the festival's executive committee.

The nonprofit group Animal Rights Center Japan had collected signatures demanding a halt to the event, criticizing it as animal abuse.