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Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704

Action Alerts

ABC pro-rodeo feature

On ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, on July 7 ch 7 (in NYC) they ran an appalling pro-rodeo piece (reprinted below), prefaced by the 'delightful' running of the bulls. When I called their NYC office, I was treated extremely rudely; a man named 'Brian' nastily demanded what I meant by a 'puff piece' (this term, along with 'fluff piece' is well-known in the media to describe a baseless article or feature that promotes a subject without question or challenge).; he then abruptly demanded to know what I meant by 'equal time', and amazingly then said "ABC does not put just anything on the air."

He said if I have 'proof' the piece has inaccuracies, I can contact 'story ideas' - BUT YOU KNOW DAMN WELL THE RODEO MONSTERS DIDN'T HAVE TO CONTACT 'STORY IDEAS'; and they run a piece that makes statements like "Bulls are scientifically bred to be tough and cunning" WITHOUT OFFERING ONE IOTA OF PROOF OF THAT STATEMENT other than that the monster profitting from it says so.


It is OUTRAGEOUS that the media is airing these stories and coverage which now appears on all major tv stations. We are losing the war on rodeos; if all major networks were running lengthy pro-circus pieces there would be a huge activist outcry. Even though the media is in the rodeo monsters' pockets and we aren't getting equal time, there should still be a loud outcry.


EMAIL: [email protected]  
PHONE: (212) 456-4040

From: "Karen Dawn" <[email protected]>
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 2004 20:08:23 -0700
To: <[email protected]>
Subject: DawnWatch: ABC World News Tonight rodeo fluff piece
Resent-From: [email protected]  
Resent-Date: Wed, 7 Jul 2004 23:28:27 -0400

I am sorry to report that ABC World News Tonight, historically the most animal friendly of the national evening news shows, tonight (July 7) ran a fluff piece on rodeo.

It started with a brief cheery little piece on the running of the bulls in Spain, showing thousands of shrieking "thrill-seekers" swarming around and running from terrified bulls who were on their way to death in Spanish bull rings.

Then Peter Jennings introduced the next story:

"Then there is bull-riding. It has been an established part of rodeo forever. But these days the bulls are as much the stars as the riders."

The piece, reported by Erin Hayes, tried to give the impression that the bulls, the stars, really enjoy the show.

She opens: "This is a sport in which a great performance looks positively awful."

We see a frantic bull jumping many feet into the air, bucking, with a rope tight around the tender part of his abdomen and a man sitting on his back.

Hayes: "That was a winning ride. He is a happy man . And this is a wild sport with hundreds of thousands of loyal fans."

A fan: "These guys -- they got a lot of intestinal fortitude.'

Bull-rider Justin McBride: "I think that people are drawn to watch it for some of the same reasons I do it. It is man vs. beast. A guy, 140-160 lbs trying to stay on something that ways up to 2000 lbs."

Hayes: "And those bulls, thanks to savvy marketing, are drawing in fans too, who buy action figures of their favorite bulls."

Fan holding up a little stuffed figure of a bull: "This is little yellow jacket we've been watching him."

Hayes: "Little Yellow Jacket is a national champion worth over $100,000, known to stop in the arena to listen to the applause."

How sad to see a major news show indulge in ridiculous anthropomorphism, in a way that is so harmful to the animals.

Hayes: "Tony Sharpe and Cody King raise the animals and look for bulls with personality, like the notorious hammer."

Sharpe and King: "Hammer has always been one, when he throws 'em off, he is going to make a complete loop around the ring. He is going to make his victory circle."

Hayes: "But this is serious business with bulls today scientifically bred to be tough athletic and cunning."

Sharpe and King: "I had a bull rider tell me that some of these bulls think like a human. They do eventually, like a good football player."

Hayes: "But these players don't follow a rule book."

Bull-rider BJ Kramps: "When the whistle blows in hockey, play stops, and in basketball, play stops, but when the whistle goes in my sport the bull doesn't stop."

Hayes: "All part of the attraction."

And indeed, in what I found to be the most upsetting part of the piece, we see a rider thrown from a bull, and then the bull continuing to buck and buck. It is clear that the rider had nothing to do with the bull's bucking.

We see a rope around the bull's flank.

The story ends with a rider saying, "It's not a really great bull-riding unless somebody just barely gets away with it."

And then Hayes's final comment: "Where a good day might just mean ending a very bad ride by walking away."

The SHARK website explains the bucking, though in this case it refers to horse bucking:

"At the contestant's nod, the chute gate is opened. At the same time a person behind the chute pulls on the buck strap, tightening it around the horse's very sensitive flank area. This is similar to grabbing a very sensitive nerve area of a human being. Just as a person would instinctively fight to escape the tormenting grip, so does the horse fight and buck in a futile attempt to escape the buck strap...As the video clips show, a horse does not stop bucking when a contestant is thrown." The comment above refers to the video on the SHARK website, which apparently shows just what we saw on ABC news. But ABC News was happy to include, unchallenged, the breeder's description of it as a "victory loop."

You'll find lots of information about rodeo at the SHARK website  

Please send a note to ABC World News Tonight expressing your disappointment with Wednesday night's rodeo coverage.

I strongly recommend that notes be polite since the show has been a great friend to the animals in the past and we would like to keep it that way.

It is likely that the producers have no idea about the truth behind the rodeo.

ABC World News Tonight takes comments at:  

(A one or two line note is plenty. You are welcome to forward DawnWatch alerts but please do not attach sample letters -- they are not helpful for media feedback.)

I send a big thank you to Teresa D'amico for making sure we knew about the story.

Please note that I am on Pacific Time and much appreciate being notified about anything East Coasters see on television that I should try to catch.

Yours and the animals',

Karen Dawn  

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets.

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