CHEYENNE––Is Joan Jett of the Blackhearts a “legendary musician” who “has given her voice to animals for years,” and “attributes her great health and youthful appearance to her longtime vegetarian diet,” as PETA has it, or just a fading 57-year-old former star playing out the string on the rodeo circuit after undergoing extensive plastic surgery, as some web critics allege?
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi and Kinship Circle cofounder Janet Enoch, working for SHARK since 2006, are beginning to wonder.
Videotaping and exposing animal injuries and violent deaths at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming since 2005, SHARK took notice when Jett and the Blackhearts were booked to appear with Kid Rock at Frontier Days on July 25, 2014. Jett earlier prominently performed at the Austin Rodeo in March 2011 and the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo in February 2012.
Didn’t know Frontier Days is a rodeo?
“Jett’s management team said it was unaware that Cheyenne Frontier Days was a rodeo,” Hindi recounted in a September 18, 2014 media release. “We were happy to educate them, as we have educated performers such as Matchbox Twenty, who cancelled a scheduled performance at Cheyenne in 2008, stating ‘It would be impossible for us to put ourselves in the position of making money from what we believe to be the mistreatment of animals.’”
Matchbox Twenty followed the lead of singer Carrie Underwood, who withdrew from performing at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 2006 after seeing SHARK videos described by Associated Press writer Bob Moen as showing calves and steers being jerked by cowboy ropers and dragged through the mud, and bucking horses in chutes where rodeo hands had small electric shock devices.”
SHARK was subsequently sued by Romeo Entertainment, incorporated in Omaha but based in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, for allegedly using “false and misleading information” and “threats of negative publicity” to dissuade Underwood and Matchbox 20 from appearing at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association meanwhile pressured YouTube into removing 13 SHARK videos and canceling the SHARK YouTube account. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, founded in 1990 to protect freedom of communication, in June 2008 sued the PCRA on behalf of SHARK.
Eventually prevailing in both cases, SHARK reposted much of the video footage that influenced Underwood and Matchbox 20 to YouTube and other web sites––along with an annually expanding collection of similar video from more recent Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo events, including just four days before Jett’s appearance.
Reported Alex Riley of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on July 22, 2014, “Reprimands and verbal reminders have been handed out to workers and contestants at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo after three incidents were caught on video of an electronic device being used to prod horses out of the chutes. Members of the animal rights organization Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, recorded two instances Friday and a third Saturday where someone in the chutes was holding a device that appears to be a Hot-Shot electroshock prod to a horse’s face. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association prohibits the use of electric prods, except for horses known to be ‘chute stallers.’ A chute staller is defined as an animal that sometimes hesitates coming out of the chute and then may start bucking in the chute, creating a risk to the animal and rider. The prod is used [according to the rules] only if the judge, stock contractor and contestant agree it is necessary.”
Hindi also alleged that “two of SHARK’s female investigators were physically assaulted by an angry rodeo supporter,” but ANIMALS 24-7 found video of that incident inconclusive.
The electroshockings followed SHARK documentation in 2013 of a steer suffering “a likely broken leg,” Hindi listed in a July 22, 2013 media release, after “A calf suffered serious neck and a back injury in the roping event; another young steer also broke his leg and was later euthanized. A steer suffered a fatal injury when its neck appeared to be broken and two horses and riders fell head first over a fence.”
SHARK posted video of some of these injuries occurring at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jQpOw2LEow&feature=youtu.be
SHARK vs. Jett: a West Side Story
After these incidents were brought to the attention of Jett’s management team, said Hindi, they ”initially seemed to take the matter very seriously, and we were told that Ms. Jett might donate the proceeds of her Cheyenne Frontier Days show to SHARK. We said we could not accept what would essentially be blood money. We would have been happy if Ms. Jett had simply stated she would not perform at another rodeo. Instead, Ms. Jett issued a statement that was extremely weak, which ignored the real cruelty that had happened at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
“Rodeos are bringing in entertainers,” Hindi continued, “because the rodeo performances alone are not self-sustaining. When entertainers like Joan Jett perform at rodeos, they support rodeo animal abuse. We hope Joan Jett will look into her heart and decide what is truly important,” Hindi finished.
Cheyenne & Calgary
While the Jett management team claimed ignorance that Cheyenne Frontier Days is a rodeo, it is often touted as the oldest rodeo in the world, begun in 1897, and one of the largest, running 10 days, claiming to attract about 200,000 spectators altogether.
The Calgary Stampede, also a 10-day event, attracts about 1.2 million visitors, tracing origin to an annual livestock show founded in 1886––but the modern Stampede is not nearly that old. Rodeo was first included in the Calgary livestock show in 1908, was reintroduced to Calgary by private promoters in 1912, when the Stampede name first was used, and was reintroduced a third time in 1919, again by private promoters. The then financially failing livestock show merged with the Stampede in 1923.
Both Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Calgary Stampede have drawn criticism for violent treatment of animals since inception. Nationally syndicated medical columnist William Brody, M.D., for instance, in May 1954 published a letter from a reader asserting that “The commercial cruelty to animals in Frontier Days is something Cheyenne should be ashamed of. “
Brody attributed the cruelty to the lack of a humane society in Cheyenne––but the Cheyenne Humane Society, founded about 20 years later, like the Calgary Humane Society, has been conspicuously reluctant to criticize the rodeos, which long ago became entrenched civic institutions.
PETA praised Jett
Jett, meanwhile, has been lauded by PETA since 2008 for making a pro-vegetarian video posted at http://www.peta.org/features/joan-jett-loves-animals/.
Says the PETA posting, “At South Florida’s most touted vegan establishment, Sublime, Joan unveiled her new ad and was honored for educating her fans about animal rights and her continued dedication to alleviating animal suffering. Punk rock icon and star of PETA’s ‘Canada’s Club Scene Sucks’ campaign Iggy Pop presented Joan with the Nanci Alexander Activist Award (named after the founder of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, who is also a PETA President’s Circle member).”