If Boone County mayhem is “Mexican culture,” why doesn’t it follow the Mexican rulebook?
BELVIDERE, Illinois––Two months of pretense by public officials in Boone County, Illinois, that violent abuse of steers and horses at local charreada or Mexican-style participant rodeos can be defended as part of Mexican-American culture appeared to disintegrate on November 3, 2022 when Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi and assistant Janet Enoch distributed to the Boone County board of directors the actual charro rules enacted by the Mexican Federation of Charreria.
Last updated in 1994, before many of the Boone County charros were born, those rules prohibit practically everything except the “steer-tailing” charreada event itself that Showing Animals Respect & Kindness has been protesting to Boone County officials since September 6, 2022.
Mexican rules forbid everything but “steer-tailing” itself
“Steer-tailing,” consisting of a rider grabbing a running steer by the tail and jerking the steer to the ground, is among the focal events in charreada.
But using the same steers repeatedly is not part of charreada, if charreada is conducted by the Mexican Federation of Charreria rules
Electroshocking steers unnecessarily is not within the rules either, nor is leaving injured steers unattended and without veterinary care.
Mexican rules do not allow punching horses in the head
Punching horses in the head at a Mexican Federation of Charreria event can earn a charro significant penalties.
Forcing horses into corners, to punch them repeatedly––if the Mexican Federation of Charreria rules are observed––would never be acceptable.
Hindi first contacted Boone County officials, asking them to intervene, nine days after Showing Animals Respect & Kindness used drones for the first time to videotape a Boone County charreada, in response to complaints from neighbors.
This was the first of eight charreadas in Boone County that Showing Animals Respect & Kindness documented during the last weeks of summer and first weeks of fall 2022.
Multiple flagrant violations
Exclusive of the steer-tailing itself, which often leaves steers injured, crippled, and in need of prompt euthanasia, each of the Boone County charreadas included multiple flagrant violations of both the Mexican Federation of Charreria rules and the Illinois Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act.
On October 6, 2022, for instance, ANIMALS 24-7 counted 53 acts of egregious 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.
Flogged & beat horses
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 banged horses’ noses against wooden posts and planks while punching, kicking, spurring, and beating them.
No horse escaped the pointless punishment, and no rider refrained from engaging in it.
For two months Hindi and fellow Showing Animals Respect & Kindness members made the rounds of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Boone County Board of Directors, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, the Boone County State Attorney’s Office, the Boone County Building & Zoning Department, and Boone County Animal Services, none of which acted usefully or effectively to stop the abuse.
Eventually Hindi emailed six times to Boone County Building & Zoning Department inspectors Drew Bliss and Diane Zimmerman, who appear to have the most direct authority over issuing permits to the Boone County charreadas.
“Have you read the rules?”
Hindi asked Bliss and Zimmerman each time if they had ever even read the U.S, federal Animal Welfare Act, the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules, the rules of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, and in particular, the rules of the Mexican Federation of Charreria.
The first enumerated paragraph of the Mexican Federation of Charreria “Essential Rules Governing the Proper Care & the Humane Treatment of Animals at all Sanctioned Charreadas” stipulates that the organization “condemns all inhumane treatment of animals and sanctions any charro or charra who intentionally harasses, uses unnecessary roughness, and/or abuses an animal before, during, or after a charreada performance, in any part of the charro arena grounds.”
Electric prod use restricted
Mexican Federation of Charreria rule #5 states, “It is prohibited the use of electric prods or other artificial stimuli devices on any animal once the animal is in the holding chute, unless necessary to protect charros or charreada spectators, or when the animal is stalled in the chute.”
Most of the electroshocking videotaped by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness occurred before the steers even got to the chute, with no humans even in the holding pen with the steers.
Adds Mexican Federation of Charreria rule #6, “It is prohibited the use of any animal that is, or appears to be, sick, injured, old, neglected, physically or visually impaired, malnourished, lame, underweight, sore or infested with lice or mites.”
Repeatedly re-using injured steers, as Showing Animals Respect & Kindness videotaped, clearly violated this rule.
“All animals shall be treated humanely”
Following the first page of “Essential Rules Governing the Proper Care & the Humane Treatment of Animals at all Sanctioned Charreadas” comes a resolution by the Mexican Federation of Charreria “That all animals involved in the Charreadas sanctioned by the Mexican Federation of Charreria in the United States of America shall be treated humanely and with respect by each and every federated member.
“‘Humanely’ shall be understood as being compassionate, responsible and sympathetic to the physical and behavioral needs of the animals.
“All charros must avoid and denounce intentional or unnecessary roughness, actions which the Mexican Federation of Charreria condemns and sanctions without exception.
“Promoting the well-being of animals is the priority & duty”
“Promoting the well-being of animals is the priority and duty of Mexican Federation of Charreria. Every rule is intended to ensure the humane treatment of Charreada animals and shall be enforced in all Mexican Federation of Charreria-sanctioned events.”
This Mexican Federation of Charreria resolution was adopted under pressure of legislation that prohibited another staple of charreada, horse-tripping, in the states of California, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Illinois and Maine.
Rules may be just public relations, but appear to be followed in Mexico
Like the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules, originally drafted in 1959 by the American Humane Association, and nominally enforced by American Humane Association inspectors until 1973, the Mexican Federation of Charreria rules may have been adopted chiefly for public relations purposes, and may not be enforced anywhere to the letter.
But ANIMALS 24-7 viewed video of several charro rodeos authorized by Mexican Federation of Charreria. None were nearly as violent as the Boone County charreadas. Horses were not punched and flogged. Injured animals were not left to suffer.
The Mexican Federation of Charreria rules also provide that “stock and horses must be placed in separate, large corrals, and provided with adequate amounts of fresh. feed, water and shade,” requirements also repeatedly ignored in Boone County, Illinois, according to the Showing Animals Respect & Kindness documentation.
32 rules & none followed
There are 32 Mexican Federation of Charreria rules governing the treatment of animals. It would be difficult to identify any of those rules that were consistently observed at the Boone County charreadas, if observed at all.
Hindi and Enoch passed out the Mexican Federation of Charreria rules to the Boone County board of directors about eight hours after Karla M. Maville of the Boone County State’s Attorney’s Office emailed to Hindi in response to his sixth inquiry as to whether Drew Bliss and Diane Zimmerman had even read the laws and rules relevant to rodeo before issuing event permits to the Boone County charreada organizers.
Lawyer says she knows the law
According to Maville, “Mr. Bliss and Ms. Zimmerman have been in frequent contact with our office regarding the legal issues surrounding operation of rodeos. To the extent that they need legal advice regarding our county code and/or statutes, they rely on our office for that advice. I can assure you that I am familiar with the applicable statutes and codes, and have provided advice to the Building Department consistent with those statutes and codes.”
This communication from Maville raises the question why, if Bliss, Zimmerman, and Maville are familiar with the Mexican Federation of Charreria rules, why they continued for months to permit charreadas which so flagrantly violated the standards established by the organization which has governed charreada since 1933.
Continued Maville, “It is our office’s general policy not to comment on pending investigations or cases. This is not only to protect the integrity of these cases, but to ensure that they are decided in a court of law, and not the court of public opinion.”
Doesn’t say beans, but we can smell ’em & they don’t come from Mexico
Does this mean such a case exists? It is the “general policy” of prosecutors to disclose when suspects have been criminally charged, or when lawsuits have been filed to enforce civil code.
Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 that he believes charges were filed against two charreada participants in October, for alleged neglect of injured animals, but as yet there appears to have been no public disclosure of such a case, as would be customary in practically every U.S. jurisdiction.
Concluded Maville, “Please be assured that our office and all county departments are doing our best to enforce the ordinances and laws of Boone County in a fair, thorough, and timely manner.”
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness is watching for further developments.
So is ANIMALS 24-7.
And so, one might expect, will be the Mexican Federation of Charreria, which purports to take a dim view of outlaw charros whose activities tend to put regulated charreada in a negative light.
Eric Mills says
Clearly, some state legislation is in order to outlaw this cruelty nationwide. The Los Angeles Dept. of Animal Regulation banned both “horse tripping” and “steer tailing” back in 1976. And Alameda County and neighboring Contra Costa County (San Francisco Bay Area) outlawed both these brutal events in 1993 and 1994, respectively. Both events were also outlawed by the State of Nebraska in 2010. Other jurisdictions should follow suit. As noted previously, even Cesar Chavez was an outspoken critic.
I worked on a 2010 case near Denver, CO in which seven steers had their tails stripped to the bone (“degloved”) in one afternoon. Two others suffered a broken pelvis and broken leg, requiring euthanasia, according to the local Sheriff’s Dept. As usual, no veterinarian were on-site. The horses used in this event sometimes suffer broken legs when the steers run the wrong way. Often rough on the charros, too, but at least they have a choice in the matter, unlike the animals.
See the many YouTube videos if in doubt about the inherent cruelty of “steer tailing” (aka “las colas” or “coleaderos). This is not a standard ranching practice anywhere in the United States, nor is it sanctioned by any American-style rodeo association (which has its own share of problems).
The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales) outlawed all of rodeo back in 1934, followed by Germany and the Netherlands. Can the U.S. be far behind?
Eric Mills, coordinator
ACTION FOR ANIMALS
Jamaka Petzak says
As with so many laws, statues, and rules designed to protect the innocent and the victims, it seems that these are being conveniently ignored.
Sharing with gratitude and all of the usual thoughts and feelings.
S Chinny Krishna says
As in other countries around the world, implementation of the law is required if animals are to be protected. And when this implementation is to be done by elected officials, this is what happens.
Annoula Wylderich says
The extent of abuse in the name of “culture” and “tradition” is disgusting. . .and that’s what we SEE; we can only imagine what goes on outside of the public’s view, and the cruelty that their “practice animals” must be enduring.