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Romancing the Rodeo: The Unanswered Crimes

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The difficulty in writing this is directly related to the starts I’ve made to do it. That would be four. The reason being, every time I think I have it done, the numbers change. And always for the worse.

My first draft was about four horses dying in the space of 24 hours. Since that time last Saturday, the number has risen to six. Which helps make my case, but saddens my heart further.

My grievance is about rodeos, generally, but the Calgary Stampede specifically—the annual animal abuse get-together disguised as a happy-go-lucky [sic] Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. Nothing could be further from the truth and this year it seems to be finally exposed for what it really is: a cruel cash cow for the city of Calgary but a bigger embarrassment to many.

What makes it a little worse is that it’s being played out in a country which prides itself on compassion and peacekeeping. Canadians are quick to protest civil rights violations of humans in other countries around the globe. They protest dolphins being killed in a cove in Taiji, Japan and they protest whale hunting by Japan, Norway and Iceland. But apparently none of this extends to anything within their own borders, for their government condones the seal slaughter and it now appears they don’t have much remorse over grinding animals into the ground at the rodeo either. Even when other countries try to shame them into changing, as Britain has just done by sending a letter to the Canadian government regarding the rodeo, they just turn a deaf ear.

Mind you, I am not broad-brushing the entire population of Canada. I know there are people there working diligently to make the changes needed. But they are too few and they are countered by those who either don’t care ‘because it’s ours’ ergo it’s okay, or have bought into the rhetoric coming from the provincial organization and feel that ‘gosh, it’s too bad all these animals are dead isn’t it, but hey! It happens’. Visiting the newspaper and television forums to get a feel for how Canadians feel about this is extremely disheartening. Their only real answer, when confronted with these facts, is to attack each other with remarks about homeless people and taxed gas. Like one thing really has anything to do with the other; they can find no valid argument.

This years stampede isn’t near over yet either. There’s still three more days of this. Do we know how many other animals will perish in the name of entertainment? Do we wait to see what other horrible death happens while fans argue it’s their heritage—their tradition? They believe it shouldn’t change because of those things. I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would have to say about that. Heritage and tradition were also a part of the South and owning slaves needed to be done away with. Because something can be dated back doesn’t necessarily give it the stamp of approval to continue.

The other argument which comes up is the idea that the rodeo is an offshoot of ranching. Nothing could be further from the truth! There’s never been a rancher alive who would use his stock—his investments—the way the rodeo uses the animals. The rancher had money invested in his animals so they would bring him revenues, returns on his money. He would never risk having an animal break a leg or a back and have to be destroyed.

The rodeo was brought about by a judge who held a competition between two men to see who could best handle extreme ranch work. One task was to break wild mustangs and the other was to rope and secure calves who were moving away from the herd and into danger, rope them without causing injury to the young animal. From that, Wild Bill Hickok took it on the road and the rest is history.

We’ve come a long way, haven’t we baby? Now, ‘breaking a horse’ is literal, and breaking a calf’s necks is, I believe, injuring it to death. That ranch judge would have tossed us all out on our asses.

I know the money made by these events every year tallies into the millions of dollars in North America, but I also believe there is a time for everything and until there’s a rodeo which puts animals’ welfare first, it’s time to hold a moratorium on them. The human participants go in by choice and at their own risk. The animals are victims and are subjected to all of this. And far too many end up dead.

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  • Eric Mills

    Amen. I share your sentiments, as does EVERY major animal welfare organization in North America.

    Reportedly, some 50 horses have been killed in the chuck wagon races since 1985. At the very least, there should be a national ban on the chucks, calf roping and steer wrestling. Several years ago the Cloverdale, B.C. rodeo outlawed calf roping, steer wrestling and team roping, yet the crowds and purses are bigger than ever, and the event draws the top cowboys in rodeo. Other rodeos should follow suit.

    There’s also a need for legislation to require on-site ambulances and paramedics at every rodeo. Ditto an on-site veterinarian to care for injured animals. Most rodeos in Canada and the U.S. don’t.

    Most of rodeo is bogus from the get-go. Real working cowboys never routinely rode bulls, or rode bareback, or wrestled steers, or put flank straps on the animals. It’s all hype to put fannies in the seats (read: $$$).

    For most of the animals, rodeo is merely a detour en route to the slaughterhouse. They (and we) deserve better.

    BOYCOTT ALL RODEOS.

    Sincerely,
    Eric Mills, coordinator
    ACTION FOR ANIMALS
    Oakland, California
    [Personal contact info deleted]