Animal rights activists say rodeo video shows cruelty
Tue, Feb 12, 2002
The Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT)
By NESREEN KHASHAN
and BYRON SAXTON
FARMINGTON -- Animal rights activists Monday continued their assault on the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo with new allegations of livestock mistreatment and a general claim that their months of protesting had put a damper on the homespun spirit of the cultural event.
Steve Hindi, director of the Illinois-based Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, said during a Salt Lake City news conference that low attendance at the rodeo had yielded a large number of "empty seats and lots of "giveaway seats." "
Those assertions were flatly rejected by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Davis County officials. A near sell-out crowd was evident Monday night as well as Sunday and Saturday in the 2,700-seat Legacy Center at the Davis Fair Park.
"The center of the universe is right here, right now," Davis County Commissioner Dan McConkie said Monday night.
The three-day event that concluded Monday is part of the 2002 Cultural Olympiad.
Protesters obtained a court order Monday to stop Davis County Sheriff's deputies from frisking them without probable cause upon entering the protest area established for them north of the Legacy Center.
Utah Animal Rights Coalition executive director Sean Diener said besides the need for the court-order his group requested, he was pleased with the treatment they had received from the sheriff's department.
"Our organization has always been friendly," he said.
Earlier Monday SHARK and UARC presented videotaped footage they said was taken during the first two evenings of the rodeo by individuals carrying video cameras inside the event.
One clip showed a man repeatedly pulling the tail of a steer that was positioned in a chute, and later, another clip showed a man apparently pulling the ears of a calf.
The clips were brief and disjointed because filming had to be stopped whenever rodeo officials requested, Hindi said. Rodeo organizers said Monday that all ticket holders were handed fliers when they drove in that explained that video cameras were not permitted on rodeo grounds, although still cameras were allowed.
Hindi accused the PRCA and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee of reneging on promises to not permit tail pulling of animals at the event.
While the cattle were harmed, Hindi said, the abuse they were subject to was lessened by the public scrutiny that was put on the rodeo through the work of the animal rights community.
"We're glad that these animals are suffering less," Hindi said. "But the concept of giving the rodeo legitimacy through the Olympics is despicable."
Cultural Olympic organizers confidently answered Hindi's challenge that they present their own recorded video of the event to counter his claims.
Cindy Schonholtz, the PRCA animal welfare coordinator, said she would provide footage of the rodeo to anyone who requested it. The video would be identical to what is shown on the event's big video screen during instant replays, and would prove that the animals were treated humanely, she said.
"I have not seen any of their video, but there have been no injuries to animals at all," Schonholtz said. "We have had veterinarians monitoring all the action here. The rodeo has gone very smoothly."
She added that there is no specific PRCA rule that forbids tail-pulling of cattle while they are penned in a chute.
One of the on-site veterinarians at the rodeo, Doug Corey of Oregon, said that although he has not seen the video, tail-pulling "is not anything that is going to hurt" the animal. Pulling the animal's tail is a way to get the animal to move, he said.
Correy said he has seen nothing at the rodeo that might be considered animal abuse.
SLOC officials in the past have said that independent observers would be on the grounds to monitor the animals' welfare. Schonholtz said that PRCA officials have treated the concerns of Olympic organizers seriously. A total of five veterinarians have been staffing the event. Most rodeos usually staff just one veterinarian.
"We have been doing things a little differently," Schonholtz said. "We've just stepped up more of what we usually do. It was just to make SLOC a little more comfortable."
The number of protesters Monday was about half the total the group had on Saturday, and only about one-third the number they expected according to the demonstration permit they filed with Farmington City.
But while protesters were glad to have the security ease up, several out-of-towners were grateful for the security provided.
"We really do appreciate all the security," said Christine Giles, of Calgary, Canada. One of about 200 Canadians attending the event. "We appreciate them (deputies) standing out in the cold."