Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK)
Thanks to SHARK's undercover footage of rodeo cruelties and well-attended press conferenes, two editorials responded in favor of proposing at least some regulations for the cruelties inflicted on animals in rodeos.
July 6, 2012
Rodeo season is a good time for reason to prevail on horse roping
It's rodeo season in Oregon, and an unwelcome topic has crashed the party.
The animal rights group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness posted a YouTube video of a horse-tripping event at a rodeo in southeastern Oregon. Rodeo fans cheer as horses fall to the ground after being roped, sometimes around the legs.
The video, shot in May at the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo, comes a few months after a bill to make horse tripping illegal in Oregon failed to gain traction in the Legislature, reported The Oregonian's Richard Cockle. Animal rights groups want Oregon to follow the example of several states, including Texas and California, where laws prohibit horse tripping.
Oregon should find a way to ensure that horses are not exploited in a way that even Texas ruled almost two decades ago amounts to torture. The more difficult task is determining the best way to do that.
The language of any horse-tripping law would be important. Rodeos such as the Pendleton Round-Up are an integral part of the state's history. The Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, which has rodeos in several Oregon communities and across the country, has never had any horse-roping events, spokeswoman Cindy Schonholtz said.
Horse-tripping events are a traditional part of Mexican-style rodeos, which is one reason the issue surfaced first in border states such as Texas, California and Arizona. Horse tripping also sometimes occurs at smaller "ranch rodeos" in remote areas such as Jordan Valley, Schonholtz said.
Some of the larger PRCA-sanctioned rodeos, however, are leery of legislation because rodeo workers sometimes use ropes to help guide horses back to the holding areas after events such as calf roping. Ranchers also point to occasions when they need to rope horses to control them. And, of course, there's the slippery slope argument that horse-roping legislation could be the first step toward banning other rodeo events.
All of those concerns can be overcome with well-written legislation, as other states have shown.
In Texas, the attorney general ruled in 1994 that horse tripping was covered by a statute on animal cruelty and torture. In 2005, the Texas Legislature amended the statute to prohibit horse tripping explicitly.
California's law has specific language saying it's illegal to "intentionally trip or fell an equine by the legs by any means whatsoever for the purposes of entertainment or sport." The California law also specifies exceptions for the "lawful laying down of a horse for medical or identification purposes." In both states, first-time violations are misdemeanors.
Certainly the Legislature has bigger problems to deal with next year than horse tripping. But a state that considers itself progressive should be able to find a way to end exploitation without harming ranchers and more safety-conscious rodeos. After all, Texas is hardly a bastion of regulation, and it found a way to solve this problem.
July 10, 2012
Editorial: Rodeo must take action to ensure event's integrity
It is no secret that there are organizations and individuals who would love to shut down the Reno Rodeo and other similar events around the country.
Nor is it a secret that they’re always looking for ammunition for that battle, such as proof of the inhumane treatment of livestock. In this age of high-tech cameras, officials should assume that everything they do is being scrutinized and recorded.
So it behooved officials of the Reno Rodeo, one of the most successful high-profile rodeos in the U.S., to make sure that everyone involved in its annual event adhered to stringent rules when dealing with the animals.
Now it’s critical that they take seriously the allegations made last week by the group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness that workers at this year’s event in June violated that rodeo’s own rules by routinely shocking horses to make them jump and buck. If the accusations are true, the rodeo must take firm action to punish those involved and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Reno Rodeo officials have made it clear that they don’t want any shocking of the horses at their event, even though it’s allowed by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
“They’re very intelligent,” rodeo spokesman Steve Schroeder said of the horses. “The shock doesn’t improve or enhance their performance, which is part of why we don’t want it.”
The questions that the rodeo must answer are whether contractors who handle the livestock share its belief that shocking doesn’t improve performance, whether word of the rodeo’s ban on shocking is getting down to the contractors and whether those contractors believe that the rodeo is serious about the ban.
SHARK alleges that rodeo officials, cowboys and judges are turning a blind eye to what’s going on in the rodeo arena.
The latest allegations are all the more troubling because they’ve happened before.
Rodeo officials said that cameras were installed at the Reno arena after the same group exposed shockers at the 2011 event. They said that the cameras didn’t pick up any shocking at this year’s rodeo.
SHARK’s videos suggest otherwise. Although some of the evidence may be ambiguous, Schroeder said that at least some of the footage did indeed show a worker in the arena shocking a horse as it leaves the chute.
“It is true. That guy is shocking horses, and we’re not OK with that,” Schroeder said, adding that the man would not be welcome at future events.
Now rodeo officials must determine whether that one man’s actions were an aberration or whether SHARK is right that it was part of an ongoing pattern of behavior.
The Reno Rodeo is a critically important event to this community. The rodeo, held in mid-June every year, kicks off the special-events season. Its week of performances set a record for attendance this year at a time when Reno-Sparks has been hit particularly hard by the recession.
Protecting the rodeo’s reputation, as well as ensuring the safety of participants and animals, must be the No. 1 goal. And officials must make sure everyone involved understands and lives by that rule.