Fans watched dogs torment bulls in the main arena after official events
SALINAS, California––The 109th California Rodeo Salinas had nearly ended on Sunday, July 19, 2019. The loudspeaker was still announcing the last “bullfighting” events, in which “rodeo clowns” tease young bulls who are already agitated by bucking straps cinched tightly around their waists. Attendees, however, were filing out of the Salinas Sports Complex.
The Showing Animals Respect & Kindness videography team, scattered around the arena, were putting away their equipment, anticipating the long drive back to their Chicago-area headquarters, when SHARK founder Steve Hindi happened to glance over into the main arena, then supposedly empty except for the “spent” bulls who were corralled there after their “bullfighting” use.
“I saw some dogs,” Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7, “and they were attacking the bulls and people were watching.”
Hindi signaled to his crew to resume videotaping.
See for yourself
As documented by the SHARK video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prgX7QtdrvA, hundreds of California Rodeo Salinas spectators remained in their main arena seats, far from the awards ceremony for the winning “bullfighters.”
Six bulls who had just been run hard by the rodeo clowns stood at bay near the center of the area, charged repeatedly by a mixed pack of five dogs. Among the dogs were at least one boerboel, a Catahoula leopard dog, two probable boerboel mixes, and a small terrier who tried to push the bulls toward the big dogs.
The big dogs, especially the boerboel and the Catahoula, lunged again and again at the bulls’ faces, biting and sometimes drawing blood.
Bulls were injured, but did not harm dogs
The bulls tried to push the dogs away with their horns, attempted to turn away and run, occasionally kicked at the dogs, and conspicuously refrained from goring and tossing the dogs.
This was the one evident difference between the 10 minutes of video the SHARK team collected, taken from multiple angles, and centuries-old depictions of obviously more experienced bulls throwing some of their harassers.
The bulls approached the gate through which they would later be herded to trailers, but the men at the gate did not open it to let them escape the dogs.
When an apparent black boerboel/border collie cross tried to quit the violent harassment of the bulls, a man standing in the ring ordered the dog to resume.
The SHARK team also collected video of bull-baiting with dogs after night performances.
“This might have been going on for years,” Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7.
SHARK has attended the California Rodeo Salinas almost every year for a decade.
“We’ve always seen dogs running around near the end, when people are getting ready to go,” Hindi said, “and we have taken some video of it, but we never realized before that the dogs were attacking the bulls, or that it was part of the show.”
Scene from 13th century
The scene in the ring differed little, if at all, from bull-baiting as practiced when first documented at Stratford Bridge, England, in 1209.
That was during the reign of King John, younger brother of the crusader Richard the Lion-Hearted and arch-enemy of the tax resistor and poacher Robin Hood.
It was also during the time of Richard of Wyche (1197-1253, sainted in 1262). Then a young farmhand, living just 22 miles away from the Stratford Bridge bull-baiting, and quite likely a witness, Richard of Wyche became a lifelong vegetarian and foe of cruelty.
Long part of the show in Monterey County
In truth, medieval-style bull-baiting has been part of the show in the Monterey County seat for much longer than the California Rodeo Salinas has existed by that name.
The official rodeo history traces the event to “the days of the Spanish rancheros,” which in Monterey County began with the first Spanish settlement in 1770.
Designated the capital of both Alto and Baja California in 1776, the city of Monterrey spun off the suburb of Salinas in 1822.
“Alto California” is the U.S. state. “Baja California” the southern peninsula that is now part of Mexico. Salinas is today by far bigger than Monterey, and now houses the Monterey County offices.
Benjamin Bonneville, 1834
Visiting Monterey in 1834, U.S. Army officer, explorer, and fur trapper Benjamin Bonneville (1796-1878) described witnessing bull-baiting in which bears were set on bulls rather than dogs, as well as traditional Spanish-style bullfighting.
Bonneville sold his notes for $1,000, then a huge sum, to author Washington Irving (1783-1859), best known for his stories Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Irving edited the material into The Adventures of Captain Bonneville (1837).
Richard Henry Dana, 1835
The Bonneville account was affirmed in most details three years later by writer/sailor Richard Henry Dana in his memoir Two Years Before the Mast (1840), except that Dana made no mention of bears.
Arriving in Monterey in 1835, Dana wrote that the locals “frequently give exhibitions of their horsemanship in races, bull-baitings, &c.; but as we were not ashore during any holiday, we saw nothing of it. Monterey is also a great place for cockfighting, gambling of all sorts, fandangos, and various kinds of amusement and knavery.
“Trappers and hunters, who occasionally arrive here from over the Rocky Mountains, with their valuable skins and furs,” Dana wrote, in clear reference to the Bonneville expedition, “are often entertained with amusements and dissipation, until they have wasted their opportunities and their money, and then go back,” exactly as Bonneville did, “stripped of everything.”
Banned by Cruelty to Animals Act
Bonneville had enjoyed bull-and-bear-baiting, and Spanish bullfighting, unlike Dana, but both had already been banned in Britain by the Cruelty to Animals Act in 1835, along with cockfighting and dogfighting, and were falling into cultural disfavor in the U.S. as well.
Baiting does not appear to have been part of the entertainment when the Sausal Park Race Track in Monterey, opened in 1872, introduced bucking contests between races that were ancestral to the California Rodeo Salinas. Nor was baiting apparently included in a Wild West Show held in 1910 at a long-gone baseball park, which was the direct antecedent to the California Rodeo.
California Rodeo Salinas advertised bull-baiting
The California Rodeo Salinas under the present name began in 1911. Media releases distributed by the California Rodeo Salinas itself promised bull-baiting and bullfighting, along with all the other standard rodeo events, at least as early as 1919 and as late as 1948.
The “bullfighting” may have been the same event called “bullfighting” today. The bull-baiting very likely was exactly what SHARK videotaped in 2019, since nothing else has ever been called “bull-baiting.”
In some variants the bulls are tied to stakes, but in most versions the bulls and the dogs harassing them are confined in a space visible to spectators.
Baiting vs. herding trials
The difference between baiting and herding trials is self-evident: herding dogs try to round up and move a group of animals as rapidly as possible to a fixed point, usually a small corral, and get them to go inside. If the herding trial includes “cutting,” one of the herded animals will be singled out before the rest are corralled.
Authentic herding dogs drive from behind and the sides, running to the front of the herd only to turn them. Herding dogs may bark and nip at the herded animals’ heels, but do not lunge to bite the animals’ faces, or bite and hold on, as the dogs in the SHARK video sometimes did, so the herded animals cannot turn and move toward the destination.
Bullfighting & bull-baiting banned in 1957
California did not actually outlaw bullfighting and bull-baiting until 1957.
According to the 1957 legislation, “It shall be unlawful for any person to promote, advertise, stage, hold, manage, conduct, participate in, engage in, or carry on any bullfight exhibition, any bloodless bullfight contest or exhibition, or any similar contest or exhibition, whether for amusement or gain or otherwise; provided, that nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit rodeos or to prohibit measures necessary to the safety of participants at rodeos. This section shall not, however, be construed as prohibiting bloodless bullfights, contests, or exhibitions held in connection with religious celebrations or religious festivals. Any person violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
While the 1957 law exempted rodeos, it did not exempt baiting conducted under the auspices of a rodeo, which could scarcely be called “necessary to the safety of participants.” Merely closing the gate between the rodeo clown performances and the “spent” bulls, as is done, ensures that the “spent” bulls cannot return to menace the rodeo clowns, even in the unlikely event that one or more might choose to do so.
Current law bans “worrying” bulls too
The 1957 law was later updated and partially superseded by another.
California law now stipulates that “any person who, for amusement or gain, causes any bull, bear, or other animal, not including any dog, to fight with like kind of animal or creature, or causes any animal, including any dog, to fight with a different kind of animal or creature, or with any human being, or who, for amusement or gain, worries or injures any bull, bear, dog, or other animal, or causes any bull, bear, or other animal, not including any dog, to worry or injure each other, or any person who permits the same to be done on any premises under his or her charge or control, or any person who aids or abets the fighting or worrying of an animal or creature, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”
Since the current language expressly includes a prohibition on worrying bulls, as well as on causing either bulls or bears to fight, the California Rodeo Salinas exhibition that SHARK videotaped appears to have been wholly illegal.
But who will enforce the law?
But who will enforce the law? Lack of enforcement of apparently applicable humane laws has been problematic at the California Rodeo Salinas for decades.
As Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7, mounted units of the Monterey County sheriff’s department and California Highway Patrol are themselves participants in the California Rodeo Salinas opening parades. ANIMALS 24-7 has discovered no record of the Monterey County SPCA, formed in 1905, ever prosecuting or even attempting to prosecute California Rodeo Salinas participants for anything.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, also in Monterey County, is a reputed enclave of affluent animal rights activists, including the late Doris Day, founder of both the Doris Day Animal Foundation and the Doris Day Animal League. The latter was in 2006 merged into the Humane Society of the U.S.
But there also seems to be no record of either the Humane Society of the U.S. or the two Doris Day organizations ever standing up to the California Rodeo Salinas to try to stop any abuse, no matter how egregious.
One fatal injury every three days
The California Rodeo Salinas appears to average about one fatal injury to an animal for each three days of events.
Action for Animals founder Eric Mills logged 16 fatal injuries to animals at the California Rodeo Salinas in the 12 years 1983-1995. No one was ever prosecuted for any of them.
“We had no major injuries or deaths in any of the rodeo livestock in 2008 or 2010,” California Rodeo Salinas veterinarian Tim Eastman told media in 2011, but Eastman acknowledged that “In 2009, three calves sustained injuries during competition––each had a broken leg––and were euthanized.”
“Eastman’s father, Sam Eastman, was a past president of the California Rodeo Salinas, and his brother, Brent Eastman, is Rodeo vice president,” mentioned Dennis L. Taylor of the Salinas Californian.
Barrel racer filed cruelty complaint
Taylor in August 2012 reported about “A bucking horse who shattered his leg in full view of the crowd during the California Rodeo Salinas, [who]was left to suffer in a chute alone and in pain for roughly 45 minutes before he was hauled off and euthanized, according to an eyewitness account,” filed with the Monterey County SPCA––to no avail––by barrel racer Jennifer Ogawa and two other adults.
Veterinarian Eastman and California Rodeo spokesperson Mandy Linquist contended that removing the horse from the scene took only ten minutes.
SHARK in 2013 videotaped a so-called “bulldogging” event in which a steer was trampled to death by a horse. Eastman said he had never seen anything like that happen before. Linquist called it a “freak accident.”
Tried to ban video
SHARK also videotaped a calf and a steer suffering broken legs at the 2013 California Rodeo. The California Rodeo responded with an unsuccessful attempt to ban unauthorized videography from the premises, claiming that “The California Rodeo Salinas and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) sanctioning body does not allow for the video recording, transmission, distribution, or selling of any description, account, picture, video, audio or other form or reproduction of the event without permission.”
In fact the Professional Rodeo Cowboys settled a 2009 lawsuit brought by SHARK (https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/SHARK_v_PRCA/SHARKPRCAsettlement.pdf) by agreeing that SHARK had the right to videotape rodeo performances.
SHARK alleged under-reporting of injuries
SHARK and the Animal Legal Defense Fund in December 2014 charged in a lawsuit against the California Rodeo that Eastman had “drastically and chronically underreported animal injuries” during the preceding two years.
Of 41 injuries to animals the SHARK videotaped during the 2013 and 2014 Salinas rodeos, the lawsuit alleged, supported by expert veterinary opinion, only four were reported to the California Veterinary Medical Board, as the California state Professions Code requires.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Susan Matcham in 2016 dismissed the lawsuit, holding that SHARK and the ALDF lacked standing to bring the case.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs did, however, agree to investigate the California Veterinary Medical Board for allegedly mishandling investigations of the injuries to animals and purported underreporting that led to the lawsuit.
Exposing mayhem boosted attendance
Meanwhile, during the weeks preceding the 2015 California Rodeo Salinas, SHARK and the Los Angeles-based organization Last Chance for Animals paid to air more than 1,000 paid television spot advertisements urging viewers to not attend the rodeo.
Hindi and Last Chance for Animals founder Chris DeRose expected that the animal suffering the ads showed would dissuade attendees who might mistake rodeo for wholesome family entertainment.
That may have happened, but the ads apparently also attracted more sadistic voyeurs than ever, as California Rodeo Salinas attendance jumped 6.5%, to 51,296.