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Not the Rodeo I Thought I Could Endure

Rodeo Bronco Rider

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace. I intended to return for a second show to try to better understand why people paid money to see animals (and humans for that matter) treated in this way/experience this much torture (yes, adrenaline but most of them obviously don't walk right once their few seconds of fame are done). I couldn't manage to return to the rodeo.

What follows is my judgmental rant and post (mortem) of my first and last experience with the rodeo world. Like this bronco rider is doing, hang on! I bet he does yoga so he can endure that bucking shit- looks like flexibility would save your back, doesn't it?

The evening consisted of spectators (in some cases close other riders and competitors watching their friends and family) do things with or to animals. In a few kinds of events women participated, but in general they were given roles where you could sit back and say, "Now isn't she real purty." I'm stereotyping of course, but there were few women on the front lines of any of this.

Because most of it upset me, I couldn't bear taking any video with the exception of the barrel and carriage racing. Horses, like many kinds of dogs, are human companion animals that are working animals- they benefit from being occupied (discipline, structure)- unlike cats. Watch as this rather large horse enjoys his barrel competition- ears pricked and all. This test of speed and maneuverability is really amazing!

The bull and bronc riding and calf roping (though they did provide them with good head pads) bothered me most on the animal front. This is a comprehensive presentation about the moral and ethical challenges of rodeo, as well as some of the tactics. Agreed, yes, bucking probably doesn't bother the bulls, but what does in fact happen once they get back "off stage." I can't know- as I said, I just couldn't manage to go back a second time. Especially Doc Holiday, the trained Brahma bull ridden through a ring of fire on a huge tractor trailer (because 4 wheels aren't enough to really make sure the earth is churned up in the tire tread). Showing his loyalty and devotion with a ring in his nose. And at the end of it, as if it's not obvious enough, he stands on the bull after he's commanded him to lay down in the dirt.

The biggest question in my mind is- what are the children of people who involved in this learning?
Outside the arena, are they learning care for animals that have a "performance and monetary value." But therein lies the rub. If you believe animals are to be owned, rather than lives to be cared for and creatures to be loved and to coexist with (what is this coexist of which you speak?), you grow up with who knows what kind of potential for animal treatment. And if you think of animals as things- what about people? It's just a road into a very dark place and frankly, it's not a wise parental investment- it sends a destructive message that I would imagine has to be monitored, tempered, watched and patrolled. As if parenting isn't already a ton of work. Dominance and subordination are king and animals are there to be subordinated over. Lovely.

The evening also included as part of the "entertainment experience," a laser light show and a comedic interlude involving cross dressing and heterosexually suggestive dialogue that caused the people in front of us to parentally grunt "Where's the kids," concerned they might learn something (or ironically, the wrong things about sexuality--right there- at the RODEO!). The experience was rooted in dirt grinding, loud trucks, and
tens of giant speakers that would crank up (to 11) songs like "Jump," "Walk This Way," "Fortunate Son," and even "Can't Touch This" as the seconds ticked away while an animal and cowboy struggling to stay on wrenched around the arena.

For me, it became a night of cheering for the animals, booing the humans (though as I watched a few of the riders waddle out, clearly I wondered why they chose to sacrifice their backs- over and over again). It was all sickening and worse than I thought (and I think in terms of animal protection standards this particular rodeo was probably more ethical than some).

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