Animal torment alleged at rodeo


The Pantagraph

Springfield - A videotape released Thursday appears to show handlers at the National High School Finals Rodeo last month shocking animals with cattle prods and repeatedly pulling their tails, possibly in violation of the rodeo's own rules.

Steve Hindi of a group called Showing Animals Respect and Kindness showed reporters at a state Capitol news conference a 38-minute video to bolster his case that the treatment of animals at the rodeo violated Illinois law. He said the video was from 12 hours of taping at the weeklong July event in Springfield.

But Dave Urbanek, a spokesman for Gov. George Ryan, said inspectors from the Agriculture Department found no evidence of animal mistreatment during the rodeo.

"From everything I've heard, this guy (Hindi) is an extreme animal activist who has a higher standard than state requires," Urbanek said.

Hindi said he delivered the videotape by mail to Ryan, but Urbanek didn't know whether it had arrived. He said it would likely be referred to the Agriculture Department.

"The rodeo tells you these animals are wild- they're 'born to buck' is the term that they always use," said Hindi, of Elburn, a 46- year-old co-owner of a Geneva industrial fasteners manufacturer. "If you were not applying flank straps and spurs and electric prods, a lot of these animals wouldn't be going anywhere, and it violates their own rules."

Repeatedly in the tape, men standing above the chute from which horses and calves are released for individual events appear to lean over and apply to the animals two-pronged devices Hindi says are cattle prods, just before release.

Kent Sturman, general manager of the Denver-based National High School Association, Inc., said that rodeo rules allow using prods only when the gate is open and the animal is stalling.

"That person can only use the cattle prod on the animal at the contestant's request," said Sturman, who wouldn't comment specifically on Hindi's allegations because he said he hadn't seen the videotape. "Most of our contestants prefer not to have them used unless the animal is stalling in the chute."

The only people with cattle prods near the chutes are representatives of the companies that provide the horses and cattle, Sturman said. Officials from Three Hills Rodeo, the Iowa company that provided riding animals, did not return a message seeking comment.

Hindi said cattle prods are used to agitate and make the animals buck wildly. He also complained about flank straps he says irritate horses and the roping of calves around the neck.

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