Valuable quotes

"No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow." ~~

"The minute you start talking about what you're going to do if you lose, you've already lost." ~~

Cree Prophecy - "When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money." ~~

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The romance of the Rodeo

I'm aware of the complaints leveled against rodeos by animal rights organizations such as PETA - they are growing as each day passes and rightly so. I am a part of that. As the owner of four cats and supporter of numerous animal protection organizations, I know myself to be one who cares deeply for all animals. You need only look into my backyard to see that. I respect all animals, both large and small for the magnificent creatures that they are and I'm appalled when I see them abused or neglected.

I admit that every year I grow more & more concerned about the treatment of the animals used in rodeos. And with each year passing, nothing is being done to change this. I feel it is about time to speak up louder than ever, but before I continue, in case someone wants to question my concerns, citing I seem to care more for the animal than human life, it goes without saying I am equally concerned about the clear risk of injury to the human competitors. There is a vast difference here however - their risk is their choice - the animals risk is not.

**The origins of the rodeo have been debated & contested, but I believe the very first was held in Deer Trail Colorado in 1869. And no, it wasn't born from ranch work as so many like to believe - no rancher in his right mind would chance injury to his stock like happens at rodeos. A broken leg or broken back to his animals meant he lost that animal and a part of his livelihood. No, the first "rodeo" was launched by a court judge to decide who was a better farm worker and gained notoriety when "Wild Bill", J. B. Hickok took it on the road in his traveling Wild West show.

Believing it to be an extension of ranching is a fallacy and one rodeo proponents want people to believe. It's just not so, any more than Santa Claus is the real reason behind holding Christmas on Dec. 25th each year. It's all about money. Incidentally, Bill was about as western as the Statue of Liberty too, having been born in Illinois. But he liked to play cowboys and Indians too.
One thing I've always found amusing is the rodeo beginning with it's impressive parade of flag bearers and contestants, all on horseback parading through the arena. They carry flags of the USA, Canada as well as the provincial or state flag. A mini Olympics for the horse shit crowd I guess. Looking at these flags, one sees money is prevalent - there are flags for sponsors such as Dodge trucks, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco and Wrangler Jeans. Flags for ranching equipment, even flags from medical practices such as chiropractors. For cowboys or animals I wonder? Oddly though, there are no flags from the ASPCA or the Humane Society, though most of the rodeo has as much if not more to do with animals.

Let it be noted too, it's a totally different crowd of people that you'll see at the Fair portion of the Stampede too. The people enjoying the fair with the rides, baking competitions & quilt sewing are a far different crowd from the rodeo crowd. Where the crowd buying goods & enjoying rides at the fair are multi-racial and suburbanite, the rodeo crowd is overwhelmingly white and clearly country. There is a clear proliferation of cowboy hats, denim jeans with blown knees and cowboy boots, not only on the adults but even on the youngest children. Got to start them young apparently. And if you don't have a cowboy hat, there are plenty on sale right inside the rodeo entrance along with a rodeo shop and a large concession area. They want to make sure you're appropriately attired for their animal abuse show. Oh yes and let's not forget - make gobs of money off you too.

The rodeo's themselves are now week long affairs designed to make millions of dollars through merchandising & visitors to their host cities. They're divided into multiple sections of events which ultimately repeat after an intermission. While some of the events move along quickly, others such as the Team Roping seem to last forever. I have to admit that in the three rodeos I was talked into attending, I found myself rooting for the animals in all of the events, garnering many a dirty look from fellow spectators. One even spit on me. Did I say anything about these people having class?

The scheduled events for most rodeos - Brahma Bull Riding, Bareback Bronc Riding and Saddle Bronc Riding, are supposed shows of man's endurance against animal. Well, okay if you must, but as just mentioned I am going to be on the animals side in this. I have no sympathy for Mr. He-man...or Ms. Superwoman.

But Calf Roping and Steer Wrestling are incredibly disturbing. No one can convince myself that the animals aren't feeling a lot of pain in those events especially when you see a lassoed calf fly backwards doing a 360 in the air as it's roped or when you see a cowboy twist the neck of a young steer in what appears to be an unnatural position. The number of deaths of animals in these events pretty much confirms that as well.
The opening picture to this post clearly shows a young animal in distress as he's dragged around the arena by his neck, the rope cutting into his eye.

Even in the seemingly more gentle events such as the riding events, the animals are fitted with what I've learned is called a "bucking strap" which fits around the animals abdomen and groin making them sufficiently irritable and compelled to toss off the competitor.

Photo courtesy of John Fischer

To those disbelievers, note the above photo clearly showing this abrasive & painful strap on the animals lower abdomen. It's not my intention to condemn all rodeos in general.

And I have to keep my personal feelings somewhat in check & look at the event with some objectivity because I really have no way of knowing how many are held across the continent that do have regulations in place to assure the animals health & well-being. Having said that, I know many, like Calgary Alberta's say they do, but seeing the dead and injured animals taken from the grounds each year, I have to surmise the people put there to do this job are either completely inept or they're taking money to turn their heads in the other direction. In which case they should be fired & people who can do a better job should be brought in to protect the animals. Case in point right now in Calgary where in the short space of 24 hours, four horses have lost their lives. I might add here however, calf roping should definitely be removed as an event, because there is no way of doing this with causing great pain, injury or death to the calf.

"The Calgary Stampede has been under fire from animal rights activists, who have said it is time for the Stampede to come to an end. Four horses have already died this year. CTV ran a story about the Calgary Animal Rights Meet-up Group earlier this month. The organization launched a campaign against the Calgary Stampede's sponsors, saying "Every year animals are hurt and killed and scared out of their minds for the sake of entertainment, not to mention the ones that get killed in the practice sessions."

And the Stampede with its rodeo has only just gotten underway, so prepare yourself. How many more die before the closing ceremonies?
I recognize that it's an important part of the culture and history of our two countries, Canada's & the US. I'm very familiar with the cowboy tradition in the Americas, dating back to the vaqueros, (the Spanish or Mexican cowboys,) and the more famous American cowboy of the old west. I realize that rodeo is not going to go away. There's too much money invested in it and keeping it going as a cash cow for too many people. But major changes need to be made and without delay!

For most people living in urban areas their whole lives, it's the only opportunity they'll ever have to experience the 'Old West'. They love the cowboys, the hat waving & the music at these events. It conjures up the cowboy & Indian games we played as kids - the westerns movies we watched with hard riding & wrangling. However, those movie sets had people there to protect the rights of the animals forced into doing things that humans demand of them. Things that could kill them many times. The animal trainers and animal owners were there to protect their animals and their investments.
Kids I knew, myself included, grew up playing cowboys and Indians where each group hunted each other. Our bikes and Big Wheels were our steeds and they never died because our horse was our best friend. As an aside, in reality, it wasn't the cowboys who were responsible for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. That disgrace fell to the U.S. cavalry. But that's for another blog at another time.

Back to the topic at hand.

I guess I'm saying is that unless & until these organizations can bring *real* regulation in & *really* stop animal abuse leading to death, then the rodeo to me is just a more romantic name for 'Animal Abuse with spectators'. Right up there with bull fighting, dog fighting, cock fighting & animal crushing and all the other things that have and should be banned. We continually take pride in ourselves for being compassionate & humane individuals, yet we fall so short of that by not demanding more from these organizations whose only focus is the gobs of money they bring to their respective cities every year. We pat ourselves on the back as we protest injustice and atrocities seen in other lands yet allow those same injustices happen right under our own noses. I think we need to clean up our own backyards a bit too. It's about time we walked the talk.

1 comment:

Clare Wójcik said...

I am so put off by anything to do with rodeos that I had to stop and take a deep breath before finishing your article. I'd like to think that somehow things will change but I'm not optimistic they will.

Thank you for trying to make a difference.

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