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April 09, 2013 8:19 am

All joking (aside): Time for West to change perspective on rodeo

Written by Dante Geoffrey

The resumption of Northwest College’s rodeo season and my close proximity to the self-proclaimed rodeo capital of the world got me thinking, humans rely an alarming amount on animals for entertainment.

This was true to an extent in California (yes, I’m back to this hack gimmick), where rodeos and horse races exist as niche sports. But it’s much more prominent here in Park County, where by traveling east, I’ve found myself to be living in a place much more in the true spirit of the West.

That would seem like a point of pride for the area. And in most ways, it is. But some traditions of the wild west should have gone the way of the buffalo (except without the regret of decimating one of the most awesome and American of species).

The degree to which animals are used as forms of amusement is one of the few aspects of Park County that I cannot, as a resident, take pride in.

I’m going to do my best to not come off as a hippie. You should know I don’t play hacky sack, wear tye-dye or smell like patchouli oil. And I’m not a full-on animal-lover. I eat meat and am jealous of guys who can pull off leather jackets.

So at the very least, I’ve thought about this rationally.

Isn’t it strange that in 2013 we can’t find something better to do than sit around and watch someone try to remain upright on an angry bull?

Sure, it’s just a sport. And unlike some other animal-centric sports, the animals in rodeo aren’t grossly mistreated. From what I’ve gathered, rodeo respects the bull as a necessary and valuable element of the sport, and provides it with generally good care.

Then why I am speaking out against rodeo? Why not an activity that routinely ends in the death of animals, like hunting?

Because I don’t have nearly as much of a problem with hunting as I do with rodeo.

Hunting, at the very least, can serve a purpose. Personally, I don’t hunt nor have the desire to ever do so, but I do believe hunting can be justified relatively effectively in some cases. Sometimes hunting is necessary for population control, and it can provide food and other animal products to those with the know-how and to those in need.

But rodeo seems to supply little more than cheap thrills.

In fact, I’d say rodeos (and horse racing, while I’m at it) are glorified displays of high stakes animal cruelty.

(Make sure to pick up Thursday’s Tribune for the story about the incredulous gasp that I just heard echo throughout the county.)

Cruel? Seems mighty strong, right? That depends on your perception of cruel.

Rodeo is cruel because it subjects animals to a physically distressing activity they would obviously not be engaged in without human provocation.

Most subjugation of animals is cruel to some extent, but there’s clearly many different degrees and intents of subjugation and cruelty. Leashing a dog during a walk or caging it on the way to the vet is on the lowest end. Skinning that same dog alive is at the high end.

That spectrum indicates cruelty isn’t always obvious. Animal cruelty can be something more subtle we don’t notice – often because we’ve grown so used to it.

Professional football player Michael Vick claimed he didn’t know running a dog fighting ring in which dogs were routinely killed – at times by his own hands – was wrong, because he was raised in a community where it was a generally accepted activity.

Rodeo is clearly less cruel than dog fighting. It’s not even close, and I’m not comparing what occurs in rodeo with the egregious and overwhelming brutality of pitting two dogs against each other in a ring. What I am doing is comparing the mindset of thinking dog fighting is OK with the mindset of thinking rodeo is OK.

So is rodeo OK? You tell me.

The burden of proof should fall upon those engaging in the practice causing undeniable harm. Prove to me it isn’t cruel. Good luck proving to me that lassoing a calf, flipping it over and tying its legs together is not cruel.

Bonding experiences between animals and humans shouldn’t actually involve physical bondage.

If you still haven’t reconsidered your stance on rodeo, let me ask you something. Have you considered the feelings of the animals?

I know, I know. I will provide aspirin to those of you who just rolled your eyes so hard it gave you a migraine.

It’s completely understandable. Most people in this world don’t even like to consider the feelings of other humans, let alone those of an animal.

Personality and feelings are two things humans like to project on to animals. Humans like to think they know what an animal is thinking. And people generally like to think an animal shares their same dumb human thoughts. Human-animal communication is a strictly enforced one-way street.

And I think that’s what irks me about rodeo more than other, more violent sports like football and boxing. The participants suffering injuries (from minor to career and life-threatening) in the latter sports are consenting human adults.

Animals have no vocal say in the violent and chaotic activities they participate in during a rodeo.

Rodeo isn’t evil. Nor are the people who participate in it. In the grand scheme of things, rodeo isn’t high on the list of things demanding major reform. But its elevated status in Park County makes it an inescapable issue.

Is the entertainment value provided by a bucking bull worth the potential suffering and distress it causes to animals and overly sensitive writers?

Buck no.

52 comments

  • Comment Link April 14, 2013 10:35 pm posted by Phoebe

    Wow! Back to California? Just because he is not a fan of the business of rodeo does not make him an idiot. He is only speaking what he thinks. Does it shut it down? Not hardly but it just goes to show that if you go against the majority the bullies pop their ugly heads up. Or should I say mouths . . . . . .

  • Comment Link April 14, 2013 11:15 pm posted by Zach Bowman

    There isn't much to say when you consider the fact that when people who lack character find something they don't understand they tend to act like they are better than, they criticize, find fault, and make up their own facts about things. Sure, they'll make a feeble and incoherent attempt to disguise their agenda by hiding behind a hot button issue such as animal rights or whatnot. The old saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" holds water here. The Author is just a tool with a pen... (a lot of that going on lately in the news)

    People like us (excluding the author) understand that ranching and farming are the very core of civilization. We understand that without people like us there wouldn't be any big city nerds... because there wouldn't be any big cities. People like the author have never had to provide, I mean PROVIDE food, water, shelter etc. for himself or anyone else. They truly think that providing is going to their local "Organic" store. They believe picking up some tofu, smart water and jumping the city bus back to their 4th floor apartment downtown San Francisco is living. More power to them, so long as they stay on their side of the fence.

    But when these buffoons cross the fence, onto my/our land and disrespect things they don't understand? Things that we hold a true love for? Something that is our culture? All that says to me is that the Powell Tribune has hired a "Writer" that lacks intelligence and the desire to research a subject. But most of all, this so called writer lacks integrity.

    I'll add that that article was a rambling mess and an awful attempt to go soft on how they really feel because they anticipated this sort of fall out. I know high school kids that can write better, articulate more, and research a subject more thoroughly than this so-called professional.

    Maybe it's different in CA. Out here men who have an opinion will state their point and stand by it. Not do what you have done with a wishy washy, rambling bunch of nonsense. I can respect a different opinion (even when its wrong)... I can't take a coward seriously though.

    Oh well, no more business advertizing for the Powell Paper from me!

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