Rodeo Will Extinguish Spirt of the Games

By Eric Ward, Founder Student Organization for Animal Rights

This February, during the Olympic Games, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) is planning to hold an Olympic Rodeo. Yes, that’s right?a rodeo. With cowboys, horses, bulls and such.

In case you’re wondering what a rodeo has to do with Olympic athletes and amateur sports, SLOC states that it is an integral part of our Western heritage; a cultural event. And, to a certain extent, they are right.

People across the nation participate in rodeos?they encompass a multi-million dollar industry. But it’s not a part of our history, since the first rodeo didn’t occur until around 1920.

And it has nothing to do with ranching or sports. Working ranches and cowboys wouldn’t permit the kind of things they do to the animals in the rodeo?a cow hand caught roping calves as in rodeos would be fired on the spot.

Rodeo animals are on the road to the slaughterhouse and are therefore expendable. Rodeos have to do with money and entertainment, not sports or athleticism.

Rodeo “athletes” (read: cowboys who perform in rodeos) do so for money?it is a career. This particular rodeo, to be held on Feb. 9, 10 and 11 at the Davis County Fairgrounds, has a winning jackpot of more than $170,000.

Similar to race car driving, rodeos are primarily for the paying spectator, whose ticket purchases fund the jackpot the cowboys compete for.

Unfortunately, unlike race car driving, animals are abused in this “sport.”

Animals such as bulls (male adult cows), broncs (male horses) and calves (young cows) are used in the thousands for rodeos across the nation.

And each year, indeed at almost every rodeo, an animal is injured. Neck broken. Fractured rib. Ruptured internal organ. Broken back. Sometimes they are killed. All for this so-called sport.

Rodeo enthusiasts claim that the animals are performers just like the cowboys. They claim that the animals live better lives than humans, receive the utmost care, work one hour a day and live in luxury.

After all, they say, why would they hurt or kill the very animals that their career rests upon?

My response is simple: The animals are hurt or killed to make money. The use and abuse of these animals is profitable for the rodeo cowboys and for the rodeo organization.

The Olympic Rodeo will feature calf roping, where a calf, after having his tale twisted tightly, bolts out of the shoot and races away from a mounted cowboy who sends a whirling rope around its neck.

The calf is snapped backwards by the pull of the rope, sending him onto the ground. The cowboy then dismounts and hog-ties three of the calves’ legs with the rope. All of this in a matter of seconds.

Documented footage of rodeos shows that, in many cases, the calf is pulled backward up into the air before landing with a thud onto the ground. Some calves race away at speeds of 30-plus miles per hour, before having their neck snapped backwards. The calves are sometimes dragged backwards by their neck, as though they were being hanged.

It’s no surprise that this event has caused the death and injury of dozens of animals. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney have both stated their opposition to calf roping, calling it “animal abuse.”

And yet, despite all of this, the event is still slated as the Olympic Rodeo.

On top of it all, the Olympic Rodeo, a “cultural event,” is included in the Cultural Olympiad, along with ballet, opera, dance, theatre, painting and sculpture.

How does rodeo relate to these other arts, one might ask? An explanation for it’s inclusion in the Cultural Olympiad is simple? money?money for Davis County. The rodeo is its only event, its only claim to fame in this time of glorification of our state and country.

It’s also money for the Professional Cowboy Rodeo Association (PRCA), the organizer of the Olympic Rodeo. And finally, it’s money for SLOC. It is money that puts an animal-abusing rodeo into a cultural art festival, and it is money that inspires the abuse.

Animal rights groups across the world have expressed opposition to this rodeo over the last year and will be out en masse in February to oppose what is very clearly an inappropriate Olympic-related event.

Not only do the rodeo cowboys get paid for the event, but they will receive medals in the Medals Plaza, where Ice Skaters and Skiers will receive their medals.

The rodeo performers are professionals; the Olympic athletes are amateurs. How much more can the rodeo be a slap in the face to the Olympics?

The Olympic movement is based upon a respect of fundamental ethical principles. Within those ethical principles, rodeo has no place.

The Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC), of which I’m the administrative director, will protest downtown near the Salt Lake Olympic Square, which encompasses the “Ice Center” (Delta Center) and “Media Center” (Salt Palace).

In addition, UARC will protest at the rodeo itself in Farmington, Utah.

Many people in Utah support our campaign against the rodeo, agreeing that calf roping is not something they want to happen at the Olympic Rodeo and at rodeos in general. Of those, some feel, like us, that animals are not ours to use for entertainment, neither for circuses, rodeos or zoos like Hogle Zoo.

I ask the reader to please consider our views of rodeos, consider the PRCA’s stance on the animal abuse we decry and form an opinion.

The world becomes a better place when we all participate in the democratic process, when we all form an opinion and voice it.

If you disagree with rodeos, stand with us against them. Oppose them when they come to town. Help us protest.

But if you agree with rodeos, and you feel that we are wrong, tell us, talk to us about it. Show us where we have faltered.

Whatever your stance might be, I ask that you take one. U students tend to be apathetic about issues which affect the world and its inhabitants.

Such an unconcerned attitude is not democratic?it’s tyrannical. In all things, be true to yourself and to others, human and non.

Eric Ward can be contacted at [email protected] He graduated with a BFA in Theatre Stage Management in December. He is the founder of the Student Organization for Animal Rights and the administrative director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition.