Uwe Lothar Müller
Editor / Reporter
ARTE - European Cultural Channel
2a, rue de la Fonderie
F-67000 Strasbourg Cedex
Phone : 33 388 14 - 2239 // Fax : 2260
I am a journalist - and not a veterinarian, neither an animal defender nor a judge. Journalists - as I understand that profession - tell storys out of the real world.
We were filming six Rodeos in the USA: three of them in Little Rock/Arkansas, two in Liberty/Texas and one in Del Rio/Texas. All the time we had an official permission to film these events. We were accompanied by Steve Hindi, an animal defender, who filmed with his hidden cameras. He told us, that the animals in Rodeos are tortured. We saw his footage in Chicago and that convinced us to follow him for about ten days to these three Rodeos. But we - the film crew: cameraman, sound engineer and reporter - kept in mind to give the Rodeo People their chance to prove, that they treat their animals with care.
In Little Rock/Arkansas (Auger Rodeo Company - Member of the PRCA) we had our first surprise: We saw and filmed them shocking the bulls in the arena and twisting the tails of calves and steers to make them wild. But when we asked them about shocking and tail twisting, they answered us: "There is no tail twisting, this is propaganda - we are not supposed to shock the bulls, we are a professional rodeo organization, we go by the rules." So our surprise was, that the Cowboys were lying right into the camera.
In Liberty/Texas (Cope Skoal Pro Rodeo - Member of the PRCA) it was not even necessary to film with a hidden camera: They were ranking and twisting the tails of the bulls and shocking them in the arena as if there were no cameras or rules of the PRCA. And the President of that Rodeo told us right into the camera, that they respected the PRCA-Guidelines and that there was everything humane. In fact, this was not a blind man.
In Del Rio/Texas (Bad Company Rodeo - Member of the PRCA) we filmed the steer tripping. There is was really difficult to keep the distance every professional journalist should keep. But it was not necessary to judge - you just should watch the pictures we filmed: Approximately 15 or 20 steers beeing delivered to that event. I am not a veterinarian - but for me these steers looked depressed and not as lively as they should. They were sent four go rounds for 15 cowboys - roped, tripped - for everyone in the crew it was a miracle, that these animals survived. One of the steers did not want to stand up after it was roped. They told us that he had a dislocated shoulder, but there was no vet in the arena, they sledded him out and then forced him to limp away.
The cowboys told us frankly that they did not advertise much with that steer tripping, because a lot of the people don´t like that - they said to us, that even people who like the Rodeo, do think, that the steer tripping is too brutal. The had scheduled that event on Friday 10am. The Cowboy who had hurt that steer, told us into the camera, that he was very lucky never having been hurt doing his job and that he had made $ 350 000 last year on calf roping and steer tripping.
One of the responsibilities of the Bad Company Rodeo told us, that one of his bullriders would go the same weekend as a bullfighter to Mexico. He proposed us to film that.
Then came Steve Hindi and confronted them in front of our camera with his point of view. After that, the people of the Bad Company Rodeo tried to force us to give them our footage. They seemed to be very afraid, that the pictures of the steer tripping in Steve Hindi's hands would be very bad for them. In fact, after our report was aired, Steve Hindi had a couple of e-mails from Europe - all of them encouraging him to continue his work.
Some further information about ARTE:
Over 30 million regular viewers in Europe
Regular ARTE viewers have a particular relationship with television. They tend to be very strong-willed and selective, choosing programmes with a particular appeal. It is for this reason that ARTE audience ratings are best gauged according to cumulative weekly viewing figures (the number of viewers watching an ARTE programme at least once a week).
Weekly viewing figures have been on a steady upward climb ever since ARTE was founded. The increase in viewing figures and viewing times is due not only to the channel's widening transmission range and subsequently greater potential audience, but also to the deliberate scheduling of progammes for greater openness, variety and accessibility.
In France, the last annual IPSOS survey estimated the number of regular ARTE viewers for May 1998 at 20 million, as against 10 million for May 1994. In Germany, GFM-GETAS estimated this number at 6 million as against 2.8 million in 1994. A survey of six Eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia),conducted by the Oxford Research Institute in December 1997, found that ARTE drew an audience of 6.6 million, including 1.8 million weekly viewers, out of a population of 85 million. Together with the figures recorded in Belgium (1.9 million), Switzerland (0.9 million) and Austria (0.7 million), weekly audience figures for Europe exceed a total of 30 million viewers. Additionally, the topical evenings broadcast weekly by Spanish television channel La 2 are a highlight, regularly drawing an audience of almost a million.
ARTE also enjoys a very big following in North Africa. It is watched by 3.5 million Algerians on a weekly basis (Abassa, 08/97).