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Kate Brindle wrote about the Michigan International Gay Rodeo Association’s upcoming RodeoFest 2011 and her concern about the animals involved. It’s great to be in a free country that allows for questions and the freedom of expression so I have no problem with her not liking the rodeo. Everyone has their own standards as to how to take care of animals, or at least their own animal, and I think this is the basis of her concern. She didn’t differentiate between the privately owned animals (horses) and the stock contractors animals but I believe she was taking about the roughstock. She has the right to not agree with how animals are used, but I did not see many facts that would apply to an amateur rodeo that is sanctioned by the IGRA.
It seems her letter is based on concerns that animal rights organizations have with professional rodeos, like those sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the International Professional Rodeo Association, which differ from the IGRA. Professional rodeos do use shock prods in the chute to rile up an animal, so they do come out bucking, because there is money to be won on the performance of an animal. IGRA rodeos have strict guidelines on the care and treatment of animals. I have been around IGRA rodeos for years and the only time I’ve ever seen the use of force is when an animal would refuse to move in the transfer chutes. I have seen a stock contractor tell a rodeo association to make a change immediately to prevent his animals from getting hurt.
Even I have a problem with the professional rodeos like the Calgary Stampede doing calf roping with a tethered rope, which does flip a moving animal when they are jerked to a stop, and can cause injury or death. The IGRA rodeos use break-away roping, where the rope is not tied to anything, so when the calf runs out of rope, it just keeps running, right back to the holding chute. I and others in the IGRA would support animal welfare groups and the IGRA and associations to work together to change all rodeos to break-away roping.
Yes, there will be chute dogging, or steer wrestling, at RodeoFest, and the contestants will be coming out of a chute and trying to control a steer with their hands/arms. More often than not, the steer gets away. If not, then the idea is to wrestle the steer down to the ground, not flip or trip it, which causes disqualification. These are grown steers and it’s usually an uneven match, but it is like wrestling on TV: the animal is working for its feed.
The large animals used in IGRA rodeos are usually owned by the stock contractor and they have been through this before. The bulls, steers and broncos buck and run to get the contestant off its back, and that usually happens. Yes, the animals are responding to the uncomfortable confinement of someone on their back so they react. The contestants are also reacting, usually from nerves and the sudden movement and strain of holding on, and usually the contestant loses.
Yes, they will be putting underwear on goats (usually not used again in rodeos and obtained from farms that sell milk or meat). I’ve never seen a goat hurt in this event, just contestants falling down.
Yes, they will be putting a ribbon on a steer’s tail and the steer will be trying to get away, and half the time, it does. I’ve never seen a steer hurt in this event. I have seen contestants hurt or getting pooped on, but that’s the risk. Again, the animal is working for food.
Now, for people who have no use for the livestock industry, which does have its own record of problems and documentation of abuse, I’m sure they could do without all of this. Funny thing is there are vegetarians that compete in IGRA rodeos. For people who think that animals should be left alone in their natural environment, I’m sure they would like to see this end, along with private ownership of all but companion animals who have excellent homes. I’m just not sure how that would work.
As for the list of concerns that were outlined in Kate’s letter, I just don’t see them applying to amateur gay rodeo. I would encourage all those who don’t like the idea of RodeoFest 2011 to come up with another way to raise money for the charities that MIGRA has and is helping.