Local animal rights activists take crusade to rodeo in Salt Lake City

February 08, 2002

Daily Herald

By Alicia Fabbre
Daily Herald Staff Writer

If Steve Hindi had his way, he wouldn't be at the Olympics.

But with a rodeo being part of the cultural Olympiad that celebrates Utah 's heritage, Hindi said he couldn't sit back.


So he fired up the "Tiger" – his anti-rodeo truck – and headed to Salt Lake City to take his crusade against rodeos to the world.

"We didn't want to do this," said Hindi, an anti-rodeo activist from Elburn. "We didn't ask for this opportunity, but we're sure going to make the best of it."

In recent weeks, Hindi and other animal rights activists have met with members of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, asking to have the rodeo dropped from the cultural Olympiad lineup. He's taken the Tiger truck, which features enormous video screens, on the torch run route to show video footage of rodeos and animal cruelty. He even has filed a defamation lawsuit against a Utah state representative who, in a letter, called Hindi's group "terrorists."

And though the rodeo, which starts Saturday, hasn't been canceled, Hindi isn't giving up. He plans to keep the truck in Salt Lake City throughout the Olympics – making stops at various events. And after the Olympics, Hindi plans to lobby Olympic officials to make sure a rodeo never is part of the lineup again.

"This has given us a worldwide platform to show America 's shame to the world," said Hindi, who has protested rodeos in Kane County and heads an animal rights group called Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.

With 10,000 journalists in Salt Lake City for the Olympics, Hindi is making sure his message gets out.

Journalists from Germany , Japan , Korea , Norway and Sweden have stopped to see the truck and interview Hindi. He's even won the support of some of the Olympic athletes who also are against the rodeo.

Despite the attention, rodeo organizers say protests from Hindi and other animal rights activists have had little impact.

"What it's done is brought a lot of people together and galvanized them in their wish to keep rodeo," said Cindy Schonholtz, an animal welfare coordinator for the Professional Rodeo and Cowboy Association, the group organizing the rodeo.

"Animal rights are just joining quite a few other special interest groups that are here hoping to capitalize on the Olympics," she said.

She said the organization has made a few changes – like having more veterinarians on hand at the event – to address concerns raised by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

She added that rodeos have been part of the Olympics in the past.

In the 1988 Calgary Olympics, cowboys from Canada and the United States competed in a rodeo that was held as part of the cultural Olympiad. This year's event is no different and was scheduled as a way to showcase part of Utah 's heritage.

Schonholtz added that rodeos across the country continue to draw record crowds.

"We have millions of people who attend our events each year," she said. "They know what goes on at our events and they continue to support us."

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