Barn-sour big groups leave the hard work to Lone Rangers
Fighting the horse’s rear ends promoting the horse racing industry, rodeo, and “Big Lick” horse exhibition, Political Animals founder Sherry DeBoer, Action for Animals founder Eric Mills, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi, and Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty founder Clant Seay find themselves struggling with barn-sour big group equine advocacy.
With long campaigns heading for the home stretch, DeBoer and Hindi consider resorting to the whip. Mills and Seay tactically prefer sugar cubes.
“Move your bleedin’ arse!”
All four wonder what it takes to get the big groups to, as George Bernard Shaw heroine Eliza Doolittle shouted at Ascot, which is to British horse racing as the Kentucky Derby is to U.S. horse racing, “Move your bleedin’ arse!”
Shaw, incidentally, was a vegetarian animal advocate throughout his long life (1856-1950).
Having a few things in common with Shaw, DeBoer, Mills, Hindi and Seay have each worked for much of their lives, with much success, to abolish horse abuses in entertainment that might finally be reined to a halt.
Horse racing, rodeo, and “Big Lick” shows, all of which send spent and surplus horses to their deaths by the thousand, are no longer center ring events in competition for entertainment dollars.
Relative to the big money-makers in the animal use industries, and in entertainment, horse racing, rodeo, and “Big Lick” exhibition have figuratively declined into sideshows, splitting audience share with midway games and Lydia the Tattooed Lady.
Even as fewer people attend horse races, rodeos, and horse shows, horses themselves have faded from public life.
Pony toys remaindered
Few young people now develop an emotional bond with horses through recreational riding and screen productions featuring horses.
Hardly any school-age child today ever has the opportunity to personally hand a horse a carrot.
Even pony toys are being remaindered at Walmart, to clear shelf space ahead of the holiday buying season.
Apparently because there is less and less big money in horse advocacy, as horses recede from visibility, big national animal advocacy organizations that formerly champed at the bit for a piece of equine advocacy action have become the Cheshire cats of equine campaigning: sometimes smiling at photo-ops, if donations can be solicited, but otherwise seldom seen.
California Proposition 26
Sherry DeBoer, the senior professional lobbyist for animals in California, wants to know where the big groups are, and even the little groups nominally focused on horse advocacy, in response to California Proposition 26, a horse racing bail-out bill disguised in the silks of allowing tribally operated gambling casinos to engage in sports betting.
A different bill, California Proposition 27, actually does that, pushed by casinos eager to keep California bettors from trekking to Las Vegas to gamble on baseball, football, basketball, tennis, and perhaps even professional tiddly-winks.
California Proposition 26, if it gains more votes on November 8, 2022 than Proposition 27, will add the four remaining California horse tracks––Del Mar, Golden Gate Fields, Los Alamitos, and Santa Anita––to the tribally operated casinos as sports betting venues.
Subsidizing horse racing
This would keep the four faltering tracks alive by subsidizing horse racing, a ploy already used in many other states, albeit conspicuously without success in Florida.
To date, not a single national animal advocacy group, and only the web site Horseracing Wrongs in Albany, New York, appears to have noticed that Proposition 26 is on the November 8, 2022 California state ballot.
But practically all of the big national animal advocacy groups––among them the American SPCA, Humane Society of the U.S., and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals––tell donors that they are campaigning hard for animals in California.
“Wild cow milking” banned with no help from the big groups
Eric Mills, lobbying for animals even longer than DeBoer, though never for a living, on October 18, 2022 won a unanimous vote from the Alameda County, California board of supervisors to ban “wild cow milking.”
Not a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event, and arguably the most bizarre event ever often featured at rodeos, “wild cow milking” has no antecedent in ranch practices, and appears to have never been done anywhere by anyone before the notorious local scoundrel Dan C. Trigg introduced it at the 1921 edition of the Tucumcari rodeo in New Mexico to try to boost flagging attendance.
(See Rodeo “wild cow milking”: living legacy of rich alleged child molester.)
“This same board banned the children’s cruel mutton busting event in 2019 and outlawed the Mexican charreada’s brutal steer tailing event back in 1993, the first such ban in the nation,” Mills mentioned in celebration.
“Statewide legislation is in order”
However, Mills qualified, “The ban applies to the county’s unincorporated areas only,” specifically the Pleasanton fairgrounds and Rowell Ranch rodeos.
“It does not apply to the Livermore Rodeo, which is within the city limits,” Mills lamented. “Wild cow milking is a regular feature of the Livermore Rodeo. One of these cows suffered a broken leg at the 2004 Livermore Rodeo, and had to be euthanized, leaving an orphaned calf.
“These are beef cattle, not dairy,” Mills emphasized. “As such, they are unused to being handled at all, much less this roughly. They are further stressed by being separated from their still-nursing calves.
“Statewide legislation is in order to ban these abuses throughout California,” Mills wrote to Action for Animals supporters and anyone else who would listen. “Let your local representatives hear from you! Now is the time! Most legislators decide in October and November which bills to carry in the coming session.”
Building on the momentum of a campaign success that stopped two-thirds of the wild cow milking contests in the second-largest metropolitan statistical area of the largest U.S. state, one might expect major animal advocacy organizations to be lining up to jump on Mills’ bandwagon.
Mills’ first recommendation for legislative action, however, is not “wild cow milking,” which in terms of popularity appears to have been on the way out, but rather charreada, the one form of rodeo exhibiting runaway growth in recent years.
Explains Mills, “Mexican-style rodeos called charreadas are found throughout California,” and indeed throughout the U.S.
“A charro friend tells me there are some 800 of these events held annually throughout California, most weekends from April to mid-October, mostly unknown to the general public,” because charreadas are held chiefly for participants, who pay entry fees, not for spectators.
“Steer-tailing is one of the charreada’s nine standard events,” Mills continues. “A mounted charro grabs the tail of a running steer, wraps the tail around his leg, then rides off at an angle, slamming the hapless steer brutally to the ground. Tails may be stripped to the bone (“degloved”), even ripped off. The horses sometimes suffer broken legs when the steers run the wrong way.
“In a 2010 case near Denver, Colorado,” Mills testifies, “seven steers had their tails ‘degloved’ in a single afternoon. Two others suffered a broken pelvis and broken leg, requiring euthanasia. As usual, no veterinarian was present.
“Steer tailing is not a standard ranching practice anywhere in the U.S.,” Mills adds, “nor is it sanctioned by any American-style rodeo association. Both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties outlawed this cruelty in 1993. The state of Nebraska did so in 2008, followed by all of Brazil in 2016.
“Time to try again”
Working to ban steer-tailing for 28 years, Mills in 2002 pushed a ban as far as the California state senate floor, getting it through the Public Safety Committee with the support of the two Latino members, before it stalled and never got to a vote.
“Time to try again,” Mills says.
Hours of drone video of steer-tailing collected by Steve Hindi and other members of the Showing Animals Respect & Kindness team at six charreadas held in Boone County and Ogle County, Illinois, during September and October 2022 suggest that Mills’ description is, if anything, understated.
Running for their lives past exhaustion
Reviewing unedited video shared by Hindi, showing continuous charreada action, ANIMALS 24-7 saw no instance of a charro succeeding in wrapping a steer’s tail around his leg, but many instances of charros grabbing a steer’s tail, then kicking the steer in the flank with a spurred boot to cause the steer to fall.
Half-grown steers ran through the chute as many as 60 times to be chased by charros, however, before any charro succeeded in dropping a steer. Most charros did not even manage to catch a steer’s tail.
The same steers, never more than a dozen, were driven through the chute over and over, running for their lives past exhaustion, and made to run again even when visibly limping.
Only when a steer could not run at all would the steer be retired from the all-day competition.
Slight improvement, then escalated abuse
But steer-tailing in itself was arguably the least of the violence toward animals.
After the first month of videotaping, posting video of the many charreada abuses online, and forwarding links to the video to Boone County elected officials and law enforcement, Hindi on October 1, 2022 was optimistic that someone might be paying attention.
“Thanks to our efforts and the efforts of all of our supporters,” Hindi posted to Facebook, “Boone County authorities have taken action. There has been much less electroshocking of animals today than in the past and more animals have been brought in,” but “the animals are still getting overworked at this point,” while “the authorities have no intent of ending the event any time soon.”
But any reduction in violence at the Boone County charreadas was short-lived.
On October 6, 2022, ANIMALS 24-7 counted 53 acts of unnecessary violence toward horses and steers in just eight minutes and eleven seconds of continuous video, not counting the tailing itself and instances of just plain bad riding, such as violently jerking the reins of horses and needless spurring.
Charros more than 40 times beat horses in the face and head with their fists, flogged horses with leather straps even when the chase after the steer was over, and most egregiously, forced horses forward into corral corners, banging the horses’ noses against wooden posts and planks while punching, kicking, spurring, and flogging them.
No horse escaped the pointless punishment, and no rider refrained from engaging in it.
“Two steers were seriously injured”
On October 15, 2022, Hindi reported from Boone County, “Two steers were seriously injured. The second one was forced to walk out of the arena on three legs, ending up alone in a pen with no medical attention, lying with a shattered leg.
“This rodeo is blatantly disregarding the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act,” Hindi mentioned several hours later, “that requires immediate vet care for any injured animals.
“The Illinois Department of Agriculture is aware of this brutality and the laws being broken,” Hindi alleged, “yet they don’t show up, and do nothing, time and time again.”
On October 16, 2022, Hindi provided a running narrative from Ogle County: “The first steer is so stunned after being ripped to the ground by his tail that he lies there, giving up and hoping to be done for the day. However, he will be forced off the ground, again by his tail, only to be put back in the lineup to be forced to run again.
“The second steer suffers an unknown injury to either his neck or skull, clearly injured with no vet care. Vet care is required immediate for all injured animals. But Ogle County doesn’t think the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act applies to them.”
Back in Boone County, Hindi on October 22, 2022 collected video of a steer who “was very clearly paralyzed,” as documented in three and a half minutes of video.
This video was posted for public viewing at that length,” Hindi said, “because this animal suffering at the hands of these monstrous, sadistic people deserved to be seen. This innocent creature was unnecessarily tortured for no reason. He was cruelly dragged across the arena, only to then be left alone unattended to continue his pain, torment, and confusion.”
Cherie Bartelt: “One of most fun things to do”
Boone County board of supervisors member Cherie Bartelt, formerly president of the now defunct organization Animal Friends of Boone County, meanwhile defended steer-tailing to her fellow supervisors, telling them that when she was a girl, grabbing a calf’s tail to be pulled for a ride through the mud and manure on a relative’s farm was “one of [her] most fun things to do.”
Should Bartelt choose to run again for public office, Hindi has pledged to metaphorically drag her through the mud and manure of her own career and remarks.
Apart from Action for Animals and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, no nationally prominent animal advocacy group appears to have addressed steer-tailing in more than a decade.
“Cultural defense” is no defense at all
It is not difficult to see why the big groups do not touch steer-tailing: it is a practice engaged in almost entirely by people of Mexican-American heritage, conducted mostly in Spanish, defended by the participants and associates such as Bartelt as part of their culture.
But as Hindi points out, practitioners of cockfighting, pigeon-shooting, trophy hunting, bullfighting, and practically every other recreational animal abuse have defended those practices as part of their culture. This has never deterred Hindi from exposing and protesting against any abuse of animals his cameras could capture.
Historically the cultural defense has never deterred the big national and international animal advocacy groups, either, when orchestrating protest against eating dogs and cats, whaling, sealing, halal and kosher slaughter, and other violence against animals undertaken chiefly outside the United States, by people who are seldom part of the animal advocacy donor base.
Why, then, does charreada get a free pass?
Clant Seay assaulted again
Compared to Steve Hindi, in particular, Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty founder Clant Seay, a Mississippi attorney long past most people’s retirement age, might be considered practically Caspar Milquetoast, a cartoon character created by cartoonist H.T. Webster in 1912 as “the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick.”
Videotaping the use of stacked shoes, soring, and other “Big Lick” exhibition practices which have technically been illegal since the passage of the Horse Protection Act in 1970, Seay has been hit time and again with just about everything the “Big Lickers” could throw at him or beat him with.
It happened again on October 7, 2022 at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher, North Carolina.
“I will take that phone out of your hand and break it”
“If you get me on that video, I will take that phone out of your hand and break it,” threatened a “Big Licker” identified as Hunter Stockwell.
Stockwell may not have known that Seay has repeatedly successfully sued “Big Lickers” who have assaulted him.
Looking around the arena, though, Stockwell and any other “Big Lickers” could plainly see the empty seats where there once were crowds of thousands, unaware of the abuse causing the horses to goose-step to polka music.
What no one could see, though, was any presence of any representative from major animal advocacy groups. They mostly quit monitoring and documenting “Big Lick” abuse decades ago, except for annual token appearances at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration held at the end of each summer in Shelbyville, Tennessee.
But this has not stopped big groups from claiming credit for Clant Seay’s successes.
Zack Porter says
The small nonprofit group Horseracing Wrongs is headed by Pat Battuello who has recently devoted himself full-time to helping horses. His group has a no-compromise goal of abolishing all horse racing and would like to shut down the racetrack in Saratoga Springs. It’s challenging because many local businesses in the city want the tourism dollars that come in during racing season.
A “reduction” in abuse is ultimately like a Band-Aid for a head wound. People argue about the “correct or humane way” to use animals, but the real question we should ask as a society in the 21st century is: “Should we use animals when it’s obvious they are capable of experiencing pain and joy and aren’t inanimate objects like machines?”
As Noam Chomsky said: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”
Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS says
Heartfelt thanks for this coverage, Merritt and Beth–much appreciated. Hopefully, it will help inspire some legislators around the country to introduce the needed state legislation to end these cruelties.
As noted, here in California, most legislators decide in Oct/Nov upon which bills to carry in the coming session. All may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.
EMAIL PATTERN FOR ALL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters to the editors are also helpful. Thanks for caring!
Eric Mills, coordinator
ACTION FOR ANIMALS
email – email@example.com
Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS says
And a P.S., on the “culture & tradition” issue, see excerpt below from a treasured letter that Cesar Chavez sent to ACTION FOR ANIMALS in 1990:
“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are cut from the same fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”
The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales) outlawed rodeos back in 1934, followed by Germany and the Netherlands. Can the U.S. be far behind? Relatedly, see the prize-winning 2019 rodeo documentary, “BUCKING TRADITION,” directed by Sharon Boeckle (“From the Kill Pen”): http://www.buckingtradition.com
I just checked the HSUS site- nothing about rodeo! Keith Dane, who lives on the Big Island, rarely involves himself in local equine issues (except the Kona Nightingales, the feral donkeys of Kona Island) During the eruption a few years ago, we assisted the Big Island activists who successfully rescued horses, cows, goats, dogs and cats. Nothing from Keith.
Animal Rights Hawai’i
Annoula Wylderich says
I am forever grateful to Eric Mills for his guidance and assistance when I was preparing my testimony to go before the board of county commissioners in southern Nevada a number of years ago to get a ban passed on horse tripping at the charreadas. We succeeded. Many of us had not been familiar with some of these activities that took place at the rodeos. Our eyes have been opened wide ever since.
Eric Mills says
Thanks for the kind words, Annoula. As they say, it takes a village…Now see if you can’t find an author or two for the needed state legislation.
Craig Downer says
Such intolerable abuse of the highly evolved, intelligent and sensitive horses and other animals. We must change all this now that we have not excuse that we do not know.
Eric Mills says
JOINT RODEO POLICY STATEMENT
Humane Society of the U.S. and American Humane Association
March 3, 1982
“The Humane Society of the United States and the American Humane Association are opposed to rodeos because they result in torment, harassment, and stress being inflicted upon the participating animals and expose rodeo stock to the probability of pain, injury, or death. We denounce this type of unnecessary exploitation and the use of devices such as electric prods, sharpened sticks, spurs, flank straps, and other rodeo tack which cause animals to react violently. We find these abuses cannot be justified.
We have determined that professionally sanctioned rodeos often ignore the established guidelines intended to prevent cruelty. Furthermore, we have determined that abuse and suffering occur during non-sanctioned or amateur competitions and especially when animals are used repetitively for practice. Therefore, we believe that a program of official humane supervision cannot effectively prevent the cruelties inherent in rodeo.
The HSUS and the AHA contend that rodeos are not an accurate or harmless portrayal of ranching skills; rather, they display and encourage an insensitivity ot and acceptance of brutal treatment of animals in the name of sport. Such callous disregard of our moral obligations toward other living creatures has a negative impact on society as a whole and on impressionable children in particular. It is, therefore, our mutual policy to oppose all rodeos, to educate the public about our humane objections, and to encourage like-minded individuals and groups to seek the elimination of rodeo cruelties through programs of local activism.”
NOTE: Copies of this statement have been mailed to 2,187 animal-welfare organizations and animal-control agencies throughout the United States inviting them to adopt this statement as their own rodeo policy. Further, The HSUS is in the process of launching a major campaign opposing rodeo.
This landmark event, bring together the American Humane Association and The Humane Society of the United States on this important issue, has the potential for dealing rodeo in this country a very damaging blow.
PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE – John A. Hoyt, HSUS president, March 3, 1982
Merritt Clifton says
Back story to the above: Until 1959, rodeo was always resolutely opposed by both the American Humane Association, the only major U.S. national animal advocacy organization from 1877 to 1954, and by the breakaway Humane Society of the U.S., founded in 1954.
By 1959, however, rodeo had risen in popularity so rapidly, boosted by the Walt Disney Studios “Spin & Marty” television series, that the American Humane Association accepted an invitation from the Rodeo Cowboys Association, which evolved into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association of today, to draft a set of humane rules for rodeo, and to enforce the rules by assigning inspectors to RCA-sanctioned rodeos. The American Humane Association rules of 1959 are still the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association [PRCA] rules of today, though rarely if ever enforced to the letter. However, the American Humane Association withdrew from monitoring PRCA rodeos circa 1973, by which time it was clear that the PRCA had no intention of ever actually enforcing the agreed-upon rules.
Zack Porter says
Thank you, Merritt and Beth. Lack of enforcement is one of the main problems. Perhaps there is often no real intention to enforce. I find these public declarations disingenuous and just another public relations stunt. That’s how it is with American Humane’s “No Animals Were Harmed” certification for Hollywood films and television shows. For one thing, there just aren’t enough inspectors. Many producers are just paying the “fee” for the certification, but data on films that received the certification indicate that animals were severely neglected, injured, and/or killed on location. Horses are often the victims.
When FL passed expanded gambling at racetracks it led to the demise of greyhound racing. Tracks actually supported the greyhound racing ban because they now had an alternative revenue stream. Sports betting would be a nail in horse racing’s coffin.
Eric Mills says
Consider the following statement from world-renowned animal behaviorist, Dr. Temple Grandin (Univ. Colorado):
“The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it’s worse than pain.”
Rodeo animals are PREY animals. As such, they fear for their very lives when ridden, roped, wrestled, chased, jumped on, dragged or otherwise handled roughly. They think they’re going to die. This alone should be more than enough reason to outlaw rodeos worldwide, IMO.
Zack Porter says
Well, rodeos won’t be banned anytime soon with “experts” such as Temple Grandin promoting the rodeo to young children as she did on January 20th this year with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Just see the article called “Yeehaw! Dr. Temple Grandin Hosts an Exceptional Rodeo”. But this comes as no surprise to me, as I recall how Grandin said to check if a cow in the slaughterhouse was unconscious, poke her in the eyeball. Yeah, with advocates such as Grandin for the animals, we need to do a hell of a lot better.
Merritt Clifton says
It is not necessary to agree with Temple Grandin on all points, and Beth & I here at ANIMALS 24-7 certainly do not, to appreciate her immense contributions toward reducing animal suffering, made over more than 40 years. Add up all the minutes of pain and terror that Temple Grandin’s work has spared animals going to slaughter, for example, & it totals many millions of animals’ lifetimes.
Offered longtime animal rights campaigner and animal rights lawyer turned journalist Mike Winikoff in a similar online discussion back on March 18, 2017, “Temple played a major role in mainstreaming the notion that animals in agriculture do indeed suffer. Those who have been in this movement a while remember when society disagreed on the very idea that animals on farms suffer. Temple played a great role in advancing that idea, which is a prerequisite to choosing ethical veganism. But the critique that she helped put a happy face on food production, and the position that every vegan actually alleviates more suffering than Temple has, is probably true too. They are not mutually exclusive.”
Contributed now retired longtime humane executive Marc Paulhus, “My thoughts track those of Merritt Clifton. The compounded alleviation of suffering is worthy of note. The average American meat-eating man, woman, and child subsidizes the abuse and slaughter of over 2,800 mammals and birds in a 75-year lifetime, not counting fish, lobster, crab, or other aquatic animals.
“So, while not discounting the moral choices of ethical vegetarians and vegans, Temple’s work to reduce stress and pain in U.S. slaughterhouses [which kill about 9.7 billion mammals and birds per year] does far more every day to diminish the totality of suffering than any single vegan or vegetarian will do in a lifetime.
“While I appreciate the arguments of purists (being inclined in that direction myself) I think we have to face the reality that more than 97% of the entire U.S. population consumes meat and/or some animal-based products. Let’s get off our soapboxes and look for ways to diminish animal suffering wherever and whenever.
“Too, bear in mind that Temple’s work to benefit farm animals is only partly based on major slaughterhouse design improvements. She is also a powerful advocate of farm-based reforms to improve overall living conditions for animals prior to slaughter. She has spoken against the worst intensive farming practices and created improved designs for feedlots, hog farms, poultry-rearing, handling equipment and even fencing.
“In my world, nobody has done more to improve the lives and deaths of farm animals than Temple Grandin. No one. Despite decades of vegetarian advocacy, our preaching has not turned the vast majority of people against meat-based diets. I suspect that Temple’s influence and public stature has persuaded far more people to pursue low-impact or vegetarian diets than any other single individual.”
I closed the discussion by pointing out that it was the vegan Henry Spira, generally recognized as founding father of the animal rights movement that emerged in the mid-1970s, who first forcefully argued that animal agriculture should become the focus of the animal rights movement, when the focus at the time was on vivisection, and it was none other than Henry Spira who introduced Temple Grandin to animal welfare work, by helping her to get her foot in the door at the kosher slaughterhouses where her design improvements were first implemented. Henry did not expect perfection or complete ethical purity of anyone. He did hope to see what he called “stepwise incremental progress,” and even credited Temple Grandin for her longtime contributions to “stepwise incremental progress” in my last of many telephone conversations with him, less than 48 hours before he died on September 12, 1998.