Rodeo owners deny animal cruelty

Wednesday, June 10, 1998

The Chicago Tribune

By Linda Young

Prodded by a well-known animal rights activist's appearance last month to decry alleged animal abuses by a rodeo troop that performs at the Kane County Fair, rodeo organizers fought back Tuesday, charging protesters have no clue how calves and bulls really fare during competitions.

"Their agenda is not to prevent cruelty to animals; it's non-use of animals," rodeo performer and judge Larry Kilduff told the Kane County Board during its monthly meeting in Geneva. "A rodeo is easy to protest because a lot of people misunderstand it."

Steve Hindi, president of the Chicago Animal Rights Coalition, last month gave the board videos detailing alleged abuses by Lake County-based Big Hat Rodeo Co., which has stated steer-wrestling, calf-roping, and bucking bulls at the Kane fairgrounds for more than 20 years. This year's show is scheduled for July 25.

Kilduff, a representative of sever rodeo organizations, said that Hindi's appearance in Kane caught the organizations by surprise, although they were not surprised the vocal activists would lodge such a complaint.

For years, the animal rights group has vowed to shut down a similar rodeo sponsored by the Wauconda Chamber of Commerce. The coalition has made or will make similar pitches to officials in several other northeastern Illinois counties, including DuPage, where rodeos are scheduled this summer.

Tuesday's exchange left some board members scratching their heads as to why everybody was talking to them. The County Board has no jurisdiction over the group that operates the Kane County Fair, and no resolutions are pending in the board's committee pipeline that would fashion an ordinance governing treatment of animals.

That could change, however, if the animal rights group has its way. Hindi has called on the board to approve an ordinance that would bar rodeos from using electric prods, spurs, straps and other methods that coerce animas into performing.

Kilduff said that using such a prod is a humane way to move large animals and that rodeo organizations have rules to prevent misuse.

Lenora Calzavara Nolan, whose family has owned Big Hat for generations, said, "We have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in livestock.

Abuse would be unthinkable to me, plus it would be really stupid."

Board Chairman Mike McCoy (R-Aurora) has asked the state's attorney's office whether the board has jurisdiction or interest in considering an animal-protection ordinance.

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