Bull-riding show draws animal rights boosters
The Connecticut Post
BRIDGEPORT — For bull-riders, it's about how long they can stay on a thrashing bull.
But for the bull, it's about getting out of a painful situation, according to several Connecticut-based animal rights groups.
About a dozen activists were protesting Friday night's bull-riding show at the Arena at Harbor Yard, staged by Professional Bull Riders Inc. The second and last show is scheduled for tonight.
The protesters said straps tightened around the bulls' midsections and 5,000-volt shocks make the bull buck.
Calling it a sport is bull, they said.
"A sport is two willing participants. Animals aren't willing participants," said Nancy Rice of Fairfield, who organized the protest.
Neil Hornish of Granby carried a sign that said, "You would buck too, after 5,000 volts." He is a member of the Compassionate Living Project.
Karen Laski added, "People think they just kick. They don't. They're hurting. They're in pain."
"Absolutely untrue," Traci Raymond, promotion manager, said when reached by phone late Friday.
"We treat the bulls with respect. They're athletes. They were bred to buck," she said. "This is what they are trained to do. They are not harmed in any way to make them buck."
Other animal rights groups attending were the Animal Rights Front and Compassion in Entertainment.
The protesters added that keeping and transporting the bulls in cramped quarters was cruel.
The signs advertised a Web site, sharkonline.org, which stands for "Showing Animals Respect and Kindness." The site showed videos of different types of rodeo events and blasted them as cruel to animals.
The activists said many people were reading their signs. One couple apparently walked away from the arena after hearing their message, they said.
Several ticketholders said the protesters had a right to express their opinion.
"It doesn't bother me. They can say whatever they want," said Keith Bouve of East Haven.
"I hope the bulls win," he added, and laughed.
Brian Pickering of West Haven said the protesters should "live and let live."
"If it was cruelty, I wouldn't be here," he said, adding that people who don't like bull riding wouldn't attend anyway.
Ann Hungerford of Milford said she had not read the signs, but noted the activists "are wearing leather shoes."
She said she would watch the show and then make her own decision.
One of the activists had a suggestion about proving cruelty: do the same things to the riders.
"Stick the cowboy [with 5,000 volts] at the same time," the protestor said.
The PBR denies mistreating the animals.
Aaron Leo, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6222.