Animal-rights Activists Target Rodeos In Illinois

March 25, 1998

The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)

By Jerry Lawrence

A Chicago-based animal-rights group is charging that the state Department of Agriculture has failed to enforce animal protection laws at rodeos, allowing cruel abuses the group says it has on videotape.

Steve Hindi, president of the Chicago Animal Rights Coalitions said that if the laws were enforced, rodeos would essentially be banned from the state. The prohibition would include those held at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Hindi said he spent a year visiting more than 30 rodeos in Illinois and across the country where he said he saw bulls, calves and horses being kicked in the head, having sand thrown in their eyes and being shocked with more than 5,000 volts of electricity. At a news conference Tuesday, he played a videotape that appeared to show all the allegations.

But Dr. David Bromwell, director of animal welfare for the Department of Agriculture, said he had seen the tape and that he didn't see any actions that violated state law to a point that merited prosecution.

Hindi said when he began visiting rodeos last year, he intended only to document abuses and try to put a stop to them. Now he believes there appears to be no way rodeos can be held without the abuses.

"Electric prods are being used to force the animals to perform in a way that they otherwise would not," Hindi said before playing the tape, culled from a Boone County rodeo and two DuPage County rodeos that showed men poking the bulls with a long rod covered in a towel. He said the towels are sometimes moistened and used for better conductivity.

Rodeo personnel do this because 50 percent of a rodeo rider's score comes from the performance of the animal, Hindi said.

"If you have a bull that comes out and just trots around, you don't have much of a rodeo," he said. "The cowboys are not real cowboys, and the wild animals are not really wild."

Bromwell said that when he saw the bulls being shocked, it was often by people sitting on the fence who were trying to get the bulls to face toward the outside of the chute from which they are released. The law allows shocking bulls on certain parts of the body to get them to move.

Lazy C Rodeo owner Roy Cox of Jacksonville, who attended the news conference at Hindi's invitation, said he and his workers never use prods to make animals do anything other than move from one place to another and insinuated that Hindi's judgment of abuse may be skewed because Hindi has not worked extensively with livestock.

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