Rodeo is inane animal cruelty

    Twenty years ago, I was born in Texas. Even today, when I think of the Lone Star State, I have a vision of open country, where cowboys eat steak and eggs before a hearty day of roping anything with four legs.

    Sadly, most people have a ridiculously romantic view of Texas. Some people are almost as deluded as ol’ Dubya himself, thinking that this is the way life ought to be, especially in Texas. These are the same people who consider a rodeo a legitimate sporting event. That is a truly frightening thought.

    As part of a showcase to demonstrate to the rest of the world what is supposedly great about America, the 2002 Salt Lake Organizing Committee decided to bring the sorriest spectacle of human ignorance and animal cruelty to the Olympics.

    The American rodeo will be presented as a contest between the Canada Professional Rodeo Association and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, to be held at the Davis County Legacy Center in Utah.

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    If you aren’t already scared by the thought that a professional organization exists to back this thing, there’s something wrong with you. It’s bad enough that heartless individuals occasionally stage these events; it is worse that people form “”professional associations”” that try to legitimize this impostor of a sport.

    People who think rodeos are cool because they evoke, rather graphically, the image of the “”Old West”” — where the good cowboy partakes in old-fashioned hobbies such as ropin’ and ridin’ — are stuck in a twisted time-warp.

    Rodeo’s appeal is the same as that of wrestling, the most popular “”sport”” in America today. Nobody cares that it’s fake and that the wrestlers are just actors — albeit grotesquely buff ones — paid to choreograph elaborate, phony fights for an audience. The difference for wrestling is that participation is voluntary for the wrestlers and that they are paid.

    Rodeos are not real, and the animals aren’t paid. That crazy, bucking bull trying to knock off the “”cowboy”” is not doing it just for kicks. The truth is that, much like bullfighting, the animals are conditioned into being scared into a frenzy.

    “”Cowboys”” and handlers shove electric prods into the animals, kick them with their spurs, twist their necks and verbally harass them; instead all in the shallow hope of creating a confused and violent animal. The calves have their tails yanked and twisted right before the chute opens. To avoid the pain, they flee from the gate.

    The use of painful provocation to make normally tame and docile animals appear “”wild”” is never shown on television: It couldn’t be. It is all part of the show — the crazier the running animal is, the more entertaining it is for the sadistic viewer.

    Worse, once a baby calf is released from its pen, it is slammed violently to the ground with its legs pulled from underneath it while somebody ties a rope tight enough to cut off its circulation around its ankles.

    The abuse is so severe that one veterinarian who has worked in slaughterhouses, Dr. C.G. Haber, called the violence “”sickening.”” He described how, after the rodeo, animals were often so injured that the only parts where skin was still attached to their bodies was on their head, neck, legs and belly. Two to three gallons of free blood often accumulated under the detached skin of the most bruised areas.

    The so-called cowboys who participate in these events are the real losers. They sincerely believe they are simply following in the footsteps of other “”cowboys”” before them who partook in one of America’s most time-honored traditions.

    The bulls they defiantly conquered and the baby calves they body-slammed to the ground are terrified for a reason. If having doubts about one’s manhood is the real problem, I suggest the following remedy: Talk to a shrink before adorning the same uniform that was responsible for how the West was lost.

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