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From  Issue
9 June 2002
The Rodeo Mafia Strikes Back!

By Steve Hindi - Shark - news@sharkonline.org

Last Saturday SHARK investigators were in Wyoming, Illinois, pursuing another National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) rodeo. It was the third NHSRA rodeo investigated in four weeks. We felt certain we would encounter violations of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act, and we did. But in addition we now find the violence of the Rodeo Mafia turned on us.

First, I must tell you "the rest of the story" from the rodeo we investigated in Charleston, Illinois on May 18-19. This rodeo was loaded with violations of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act. Our team had our hands full trying to capture everything. But there was more than animal abuse at this rodeo.

This rodeo was special to me for a very important reason. It marked my 11-year-old daughter Eva's first effort as a SHARK investigator. Eva dearly loves animals, and has for years planned to become a veterinarian. When she was just a little girl, I thought her plan to be a vet was just a phase, but she has never wavered in her determination. She even volunteers her time at a veterinarian's office, helping with clean up.

Eva did amazingly well as an investigator. She documented animals with cuts and open wounds, as well as tail twisting, pulling and raking, and the use of the electric prod. Eva documented something else that I missed completely - a rodeo thug with long brown hair who was skulking around our car, which was parked in an area by itself. But the thug wasn't happy with merely sneaking around our car.

When Eva was filming at the arena during the rodeo, the thug repeatedly bumped her, even though there was no one else near by. Being an extraordinarily brave but also innocent girl, Eva said nothing to me until I was reviewing her videotape a couple days later. When I asked her why her footage suddenly became jerky, Eva told me about a guy who kept bumping her. It was the same guy who was skulking around our car!

This is the kind of lowdown, child-abusing coward you find in the Rodeo Mafia. Was he a child molester? Did he figure she was an animal protector, and he was willing to intimidate a child to stop it? Is he both a pervert and an assailant?

I contacted the Cole County Sheriffs Department. An officer went to work to find out more about the thug. He called back a few days later to explain that he had talked to the head of the Illinois High School Rodeo Association, and man named Ken Gaskin.

According to the officer, Gaskin identified the man from his physical description. According to the officer, Gaskin said that the man would be kept away from future high school rodeos. With no hard evidence of the man's crimes against Eva, we were left with little to go on in the way of criminal charges.

Our next rodeo was last weekend, in Wyoming, Illinois. It was another High School Rodeo Association event. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, it was 92 degrees, and yet the animals had no shelter from the sun, as is now required by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. We documented the lack of shelter.

The rodeo performance started in the evening. I began filming tail twisting/pulling (violations of the law) at the timed event chute. Then I noticed that the thug was there too. The same guy who preyed on my daughter Eva was at this rodeo, regardless of whatever promises were made to the police by the head of the Illinois High School Rodeo Association.

Not only did I notice the thug, but he also noticed me. I watched out of the corner of my eye as he slowly made his way toward me. I waited until the thug was within arm's length of me, and then I turned my video camera on him. He hadn't expected that.

When the thug asked why I was filming him, I told him I was going to send a copy to the Coles County Sheriff's Department. That started the guy breathing heavily as he spouted that filming wasn't allowed at the rodeo.

He said that he didn't know me, or my family. When I asked him why he would make any reference to my family, he became even more agitated. He started looking for Ken Gaskin -- the very man who supposedly told Coles County police that he would not allow the suspect to return to the rodeo.

At this point I was most interested in talking to Mr. Gaskin, so when someone indicated the direction Gaskin was supposed to be, I headed there, with the suspect walking to my right, somewhat behind me. I kept my video camera pointed back toward the suspect, as he continued to spout that he knew nothing about either me, or my family. His actions indicated otherwise.

Then, when I turned my head forward to watch where I was going, the thug attacked. It was the kind of cowardly, blindside attack that I should have been on the lookout for. It was the attack of a desperate person. The suspect gripped my video camera and started wrenching it back and forth and around, trying to get it away from me.

Obviously my promise to give the videotape to the Coles County Sherriff had struck a nerve. The thought of Coles County police, or perhaps ANY police getting a look at the thug, seemed to be enough to drive him nuts.

The struggle went on for a bit, and the camera was damaged, but never left my grip. Finally, the thug gave up, and started looking for help. Ken Gaskin, the head of the rodeo, showed up. I told Gaskin about the assault, but predictably, he didn't care. It was the video camera he was upset about.

Gaskin told me there was now a $100 permit needed to film, and told me I had to leave if I didn't have it. I told Gaskin about the animal abuse we documented, but he didn't care about that either. The video camera was his sole concern.

Finally, I left the rodeo grounds, and went to the Wyoming, Illinois police. We gave a police officer our videotapes (but made copies), and anticipate charges being filed soon. I have also contacted the Coles County Sheriffs Department again, and hope that our new evidence will enable them to reopen Eva's case.

By the way, we contacted Kent Sturman, Director of the National High School Rodeo Association's headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Sturman denied that there was a charge for videotaping high school rodeos. Sturman likely doesn't know what all has happened at the Illinois rodeos, but that will change.

Meanwhile, we will pursue charges against the thug who bumped my daughter and attacked me. I will also demand the resignation of Mr. Gaskin. If that happens, great. If it doesn't, it will only show the absolute lack of ethics of the High School Rodeo Association.

In other areas of the country, rodeos are also under scrutiny. In California, a recent rodeo in the San Diego area was documented by a volunteer from SHARK, as well as a representative of San Diego Animal Advocates.

Documentation of that rodeo includes the use of electric shock to force animals to act wild, as well as footage of the cruel, not to mention perverted "event" of calf dressing. This is a sick activity where a team of 5-6 perverts put underwear on a terrorized, struggling calf. There is also documentation of an injured bull, and now no word from the Rodeo Mafia, or its sponsors, as to what happened to the victim.

Thanks to efforts by SHARK and In Defense of Animals, the town of Greenburgh, New York has banned rodeos and circuses on its public property.

The Rodeo Mafia is extremely upset by our successful efforts in Illinois and other parts of the country. They are still angry over our ruining the Olympic Rodeo in Utah last February. They are cornered, and things are only going to get worse.

This is for the pro-rodeo lurkers on our list. The very worst thing the Rodeo Mafia could have done was to try physical intimidation against us. That does not scare us away - on the contrary. Our efforts will not only continue - we shall double and redouble our efforts. Now we will document your cruelty as never before.

This is for the caring people on our list. This level of activity is putting a major strain on our resources. We are running on empty, so I would ask that those who support our efforts, please send a donation if at all possible. Your donation supplies us with the equipment we need to document, and keeps us on the road pursuing rodeos and other forms of animal abuse.

Also, anyone who is seriously interested in being a documenter at rodeos should give us a call, or E-mail us. We want to set up a network of people who will eventually blanket the country. Then we can use our combined documentation to increase the pace at which protective laws for rodeo victims are enacted.

Finally, please remember that rodeos cannot exist without sponsors such as Coca-Cola, DaimlerChrysler (Dodge, Chrysler and Mercedes Benz automobiles), Anheuser-Busch (beer products, Sea World and Busch Gardens amusement parks), and Coors Beer to name a few. Please DON'T give these corporate animal abusers your money.

Go on to Stray Cat
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