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.
AND OF COURSE THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE FLANK STRAP
(also called a 'groin strap') or ANY OTHER RODEO-RELATED CONTROVERSY OR
IMPLEMENT OF TORTURE.
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
PLEASE CONTACT PETER JENNINGS AND STRONGLY DEMAND THAT
REBUTTAL TIME BE GIVEN TO THIS SHAMEFUL 'ANTI-JOURNALISM' THAT IS A BLEMISH
ON HIS GOOD NAME. PROVIDE YOUR CONTACT INFO IF YOU ARE KNOWLEDGEABLE ON THE
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-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
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
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
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
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',
(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.
You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at
To unsubscribe, go to
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