“Wild cow milking” goes down for the count in one of last major venues, but fight to ban steer-tailing has barely begun
OAKLAND, California––A proposed ban on wild cow milking, the only rodeo event known to have been invented by an alleged philandering pederast, is only a second reading from final approval by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
Summarized Bay Area News Group reporter Shomik Mukherjee, “Facing a packed crowd of men in cowboy hats on one side and a spirited group of animal-rights advocates on the other, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on September 20, 2022 struck a compromise that will preserve the future of rodeos.
“Rodeos can no longer feature the attraction where lactating beef cows are separated from their calves and chased in the arena before being roped, tackled into submission, and forcibly milked,” said Mukherjee.
Spurs, bucking straps & ropes still allowed
However, Mukherjee continued, “In the same unanimous vote instituting the ban, the supervisors decided against prohibiting spurs or bucking straps used by rodeo cowboys to provoke bulls into bucking, or the ropes that tug the animals around or tie them down.”
The second reading of the “wild cow milking” ban will probably come in late October, explained Action for Animals founder Eric Mills. “Then, 30 days later, the ban becomes law,” assuming at least three of the four Alameda County supervisors who approved the ban hold their positions. One supervisor, David Haubert, abstained from the wild cow milking ban on first reading, while none voted against it.
The alleged “wild cows,” Mills testified to the supervisors at an earlier meeting, “are still-lactating beef cows, not dairy cows. As such, they are unused to being handled at all, much less this roughly,” in a distinctly different manner from dairy cattle, who are handled as gently as possible these days, often with calming music in the background, because calm cattle have long been known to give more milk.
Cows separated from nursing calves
The so-called wild cows, Mills added, “are further stressed by being separated from their still-nursing calves. At the 2008 Rowell Ranch Rodeo,” Mills recounted, “one of these frantic cows jumped the arena fence and landed on her head. She suffered a broken neck and prolapsed eyeball, requiring euthanasia, leaving an orphaned calf.
“Another of these cows suffered a broken leg at the 2004 Livermore Rodeo. She was also euthanized,” Mills said then.
Not among the rodeo events formally recognized by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, wild cow milking was introduced at the 1921 Tucumcari rodeo by the notorious former medical doctor turned rancher and oil baron Dan C. Trigg II (1888-1963).
“Mutton-busting” banned in 2019
The 100-year-old Rowell Ranch Rodeo, held annually in Castro Valley, Alameda County, California, has long featured wild cow milking––and long featured so-called “mutton-busting,” too, in which small children ride sheep.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors banned “mutton-busting” in 2019.
“Wild cow milking is one of the few events that’s intended for both our local cowboys and cowgirls,” argued Rowell Ranch saddlery owner/manager Janet Lemmons.
Responded Castro Valley veterinarian Rene Gandolfi, “I shudder to think how people might react if I were to be throwing dogs to the ground or poking them with poles to control them, or if I used the excuse ‘trust me, I’m a professional, I know what I’m doing, I do this every day.’ I know I would lose my license to practice faster than you can make that poor cow give up a cup of the milk that is intended for her calf.”
“Time for some state rodeo legislation”
Despite winning the day on wild cow milking, Mills expressed disappointment that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to allow continued use of spurs and bucking straps.
“Time for some state rodeo legislation to outlaw these cruelties,” Mills suggested, also mentioning tie-down calf roping and “steer tailing,” the central event in charreada, or Mexican-style rodeo, in which riders compete to throw down calves by twisting their tails.
This event is already banned in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, as well as in the state of Colorado.
800 charreadas in California alone
“And time to amend current state rodeo law, Penal Code 596.7,” Mills continued, “so as to require on-site vets at all rodeos and charreadas. The current ‘on call’ option is not working, and animals are suffering accordingly.
“A charro friend,” Mills finished, “tells me there are some 800 charreadas held in California every year, on most weekends, from April through October.”
Most charreadas are amateur events, much like the local amateur rodeos common in the rural western states, conducted before friends, family, and fellow competitors, not paying audiences.
SHARK drones Boone County charreada
Mills’ appeal for California state ban on steer-tailing, an event that Action for Animals has sought to expose and prohibit for more than 30 years, came two weeks after the Chicago-area-based organization Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] posted drone video of charreadas held almost weekly in Boone County, Illinois.
As violently as the running calves are jerked to the ground, often suffering disabling injuries to their tails and hooves, the SHARK drone video shows that the horses are abused even more.
Almost every participant punches his horse in the head; one participant is seen apparently deliberately running his horse into a fence, enabling the participant to punch the horse without risk of the horse escaping.
Responding to neighbors’ complaints about noise and traffic at the improvised charreada locations, Boone County in early May 2022 imposed a two-month moratorium on issuing permits to hold rodeos.
Boone County board of supervisors member Cherie Bartelt, paradoxically the former president of the now defunct organization Animal Friends of Boone County, defended charreada against what she reportedly alleged was “a discriminatory act against the Hispanic community.”
“For many, this is their lifestyle,” Bartelt said, according to WIFR reporter Stephanie Quirk.
“This is what they make their money on to send their kids to school and feed their children,” Bartelt continued, disregarding that only the property owners and organizers make money out of charreada.
Participants, on the other hand, typically spend many thousands of dollars apiece on horses, the trucks and trailers needed to attend, costumes, and registration fees.
Bartelt, who is also a former United Auto Workers union representative and the only Democrat on the Boone County board of supervisors, was later photographed as she photographed a SHARK drone team
By midsummer 2022 the Boone County charreadas resumed.
“These charreadas are making a lot of money,” for the hosts if no one else, “and it is painfully obvious that one or more entities in Boone County government are partaking of the vile profits,” said SHARK founder Steve Hindi.
“Endlessly shocked,” with “unattended injuries”
“Over the past few weeks,” Hindi continued, “our drones have filmed animals endlessly shocked, used over and over as many as twenty or more times in one day” at Boone County charreadas, “and animals with various injuries including broken legs that go completely unattended.
“These comprise violations of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act.
“Unfortunately, laws are only as good as the people behind them, and the lesson that has been forced down my throat over the past few weeks,” Hindi emphasized, “is that Illinois, in the final analysis, is not much better than Kentucky,” where SHARK has documented hundreds of cockfights and dozens of instances of state troopers refusing to respond to complaints about cockfights in progress.
“Worse than worthless”
“The Illinois Department of Agriculture, which is supposed to enforce the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act, has proven to be worse than worthless, and has actually been downgrading prior protection for animals in rodeos,” Hindi added.
“While rodeos claim to love and respect their animals,” Hindi noted, “SHARK has proven otherwise over the past 30 years, with over 1,000 videos on YouTube of animals being routinely abused and killed in rodeos nationwide and beyond.”
Most of the SHARK videos depict abuse and injury to animals at rodeos sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Violent as PRCA rodeos are, they are significantly less violent than charreada, if only because far fewer animals and performers take part in the time-limited PRCA events.
A typical PRCA rodeo involves only a few dozen riders, and is over with in about two hours. Charreadas, by contrast, may include several times as many riders, abusing and injuring the same animals over and over again all day.
“What lies before us,” Hindi vowed, “is another major campaign. We will deal with this throughout Illinois, and then move against these events in other parts of the country.
“This, added to our ongoing efforts against American-style rodeos, pigeon shoots, cockfights, dog breeding for experimentation, and the other work we do is more than we can handle,” Hindi admitted, “but we will do our very best.”