Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rodeo time in Texas - Animal abuse in approved form.

It's rodeo time in Texas, a tradition in my home-state that I went from loving as a child to despising as an adult. As I watch the facebook page posts by friends, I can't help but feel a little disgusted by the support they are offering to an industry that abuses and exploits animals purely for entertainment.

As a child, I remember heading to the Astro-dome in Houston. As we walked in, the smell of cows and horses was overwhelming. I loved every second of it, I was up close and personal with animals of all kinds and I LOVED them! I didn't know any better then. In my little mind, those cows lived wonderful lives out on a pasture 364 days out of the year and came inside for a few hours just to visit me on Rodeo day.

In my little mind, the barrel racers encouraged their horses with kind words, the bull riders challenged the bulls to a friendly competition and the calves involved in the calf-roping segments were just playing a fun game of chase with the 20 kids that were wildly chasing them through their pen. Reality check - that tiny little blond girl was wrong! 

Rodeos are a terrible place for any animal loving individual and just as I have vowed to never attend a circus or SeaWorld again, I feel the same about rodeos. 

Lately, friends have been sharing their kids riding sheep, ropin' goats or chasing calves all 'in the name of fun'. I'm sure this will make me unpopular with those boot-wearing, cowboy-hat-sporting friends and family, but let's explore the cruelty behind the scenes:

1. Mutton Bustin'
A watched a video yesterday that an old grade-school friend shared of her 8ish year old son participating in a Mutton-Bustin event. She proudly posted that he had won an award for this. In the video, I couldn't take my eyes off the terrified sheep. Basically, the kid hopped onto a sheep, held onto his coat as the sheep was released into a pen. At the far end of the pen, a flock of scared sheep waited. The sheep subjected to the 50 - 60 lb kid ran as fast as possible to join his herd, the kid held on, so he won a prize.

What the kid or family probably didn't know is that many of these sheep die from this exposure. They suffer terrible injuries, most commonly broken ribs, which are left untreated. In addition, this event puts children at risk of injury. Imagine if they fell off and were trampled or if the animals they are abusing bit or kicked them. You can Google Rodeo injuries to children and I promise you will feel the same as I do after reading those stories.

2. Bull Riding
This is probably the worst of it. Bulls are bred specifically to be ridden. They are mishandled, treated with complete disregard for their safety. This is purely a game, the bulls don't matter and when they suffer from injuries like broken legs, broken ribs, burns, etc, they are usually left untreated. In addition, they are subjected to electric prods, spurs and 'bucking straps', which are straps of leather (I see the irony) or another 'durable' material, tightly cinched around their abdomen, causing extreme pain. This pain is so extreme, they buck and thus, the 'cowboys' get their chance to prove they are high and mighty by holding onto an animal in obvious pain. 

3. Calf Roping and Calf Wrangling
First of all, these are BABIES. These young calves are taken away from their families and forced into a pen where they are either chased down by a man on a horse who then tosses a rope around their heads, yanks them to the ground and proceeds to 'hog tie' them. The cowboy with the fastest time receives an award. This is horrifying and in any other context this would constitute jail time if done to either animals or humans. Why is it acceptable in a rodeo? 

Calf Wrangling involves a group of terrified baby cows being chased through a pen by a group of teenagers. In addition to being taken from the care of their mothers, these cows are subjected to kids jumping on them, knocking them to the ground and yanking them to a smaller pen where they are deemed a winner. Grand prize at the Houston rodeo was keeping the calf - so that means after this terrifying ordeal, these babies never see their mothers again. 

Twenty years ago, when I was attending the rodeo's with my family, animal cruelty was not a conversation. I wish now that it had been because I would never have supported such a sad organization. If the time comes for my husband and I to be parents, I will be happy to share the truth with my children. I hope that other parents do the same.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

Follow Pet Studio Art on Facebook!