Two charreada promoters busted in Boone County, Illinois; Burmese cockfighting ring busted in Wells County, Indiana; Los Angeles close to banning bucking straps & prods
GENEVA, Illinois––Suspecting persons involved in an October 23, 2022 charreada rodeo had been charged with cruelty, but previously unable to obtain the details, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness on November 2, 2022 at last received confirmation from the Boone County, Illinois sheriff’s department that Jose and Maria Lopez, owners of the land where the charreada was held, had been hit with four misdemeanor cruelty charges each.
Drone video collected by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness documented extensive violence against animals at eight charreada rodeos conducted at the Lopez property, located at 5042 Shattuck Road in Belvidere, Illinois, between August 2022 and the end of October 2022.
See for yourself
Examples included charros, as charreada performers are called, repeatedly flogging and punching their horses, yanking steers down by their tails in such a manner that many of the steers suffered injuries including apparent broken backs and legs, and leaving severely injured steers to suffer for hours before dragging them away to be shot, sometimes so ineptly that they had to be shot multiple times.
Some of the mayhem may be seen at https://youtu.be/2yQ-pIiGGTs.
Beginning on September 6, 2022, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness repeatedly appealed to Boone County law enforcement and the Boone County board of supervisors to intervene, but the limited intervention bringing charges against Jose and Maria Lopez did not come until after the last charreada of the Boone County season.
“Did the Mexican Federation of Charreria sanction these particular events?”
Anticipating that the charros and others in Boone County profiting from charreada will mount a “cultural defense” of charro violence against animals, Hindi on November 7, 2022 wrote to Mexican Federation of Charreria president Jose Luis P. Ramirez, asking, “Did the Mexican Federation of Charreria sanction these particular events?
“In any case, does your organization support the way these events are being conducted with regard to the treatment of animals?”
“I have read your Federation rules,” Hindi told Ramirez, “and what we have documented in Boone County appears to be in stark contrast to those rules. There is extreme overuse of the electric prod, animals are run anywhere from 15 to 20 times per performance, there is no conveyance or veterinary care for injured animals, and contestants beat their own horses.”
As documentation, Hindi provided four links to Showing Animals Respect & Kindness video of the Boone County charreadas:
“Please let me know your thoughts?”
“At your convenience, please let me know your thoughts, Hindi concluded.
As of November 16, 2022, Ramirez had not yet found it convenient to answer.
(See also Boone County “Mexican rodeo” bucks Mexican rodeo rules.)
Before turning to surveillance of charreada during a lull in the cockfighting season, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness spent most of 2022––and most of 2019, 2020, and 2021––infiltrating, videotaping, and exposing illegal cockfights, chiefly in the Appalachian states, but sometimes, with the help of the Humane Farming Association, as far west as Oklahoma and California.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi pleaded all the while in videos posted online, and in eight guest columns published by ANIMALS 24-7, for the big national organizations, especially the American SPCA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Humane Society of the United States, to seriously address rodeo and cockfighting.
Did someone at HSUS listen?
Someone at the Humane Society of the United States may have listened, because before any word of the charges against Jose and Maria Lopez reached mass media, the first brought against anyone in connection with charreada in many years, if ever, HSUS claimed a key role in accomplishing a major cockfighting bust in Wells County, Indiana.
Burmese immigrants Kan Lay, Aung Myint, and Ma Nyun Sun were on November 3, 2022 charged, after an eleven-month investigation, with feloniously “purchasing an animal for the use of cockfighting,” reported Jeff Wiehe of WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“Newly released Wells Superior Court documents,” Wiehe said, detailed how the Indiana Gaming Commission, the Wells County Sheriff’s Department , and the Department of Natural Resources “worked together, went undercover, and spent the better part of a year busting up a cockfighting ring that would draw upward of 100 people or more to each event” at a five-acre compound near Ossian, Indiana.
Goats & cattle
In March 2022, Wiehe reported, “investigators, with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found evidence a wholesale food distributor in Fort Wayne may have been importing illegal meats from Myanmar and may have ties to the cockfighting ring, court documents said.
“Later, investigators also found a Facebook page with events advertised and began receiving more complaints. Those who would call law enforcement said men would break goats’ hind legs and try to pull them up by the neck with a rope while laughing.
“Others said cattle would be tied together by their horns so they could not eat or drink, court documents said.”
“100 roosters, hens, and chicks”
Finally raiding the compound on November 3, 2022, the investigators found “at least 100 roosters, hens, and chicks on the property who showed signs of abuse and are believed to have been used in cockfighting,” Wiehe summarized.
Wiehe credited the Human Society of the United States with “providing expertise on how animal fighting and training works, according to court documents.”
The raid itself, Wiehe continued, was conducted “with help from the Ossian Police Department, the Bluffton Police Department, and Indianapolis Animal Care Services.”
“Strong laws against cockfighting are essential”
On November 7, 2022, the same day that Hindi wrote to Mexican Federation of Charreria president Jose Luis P. Ramirez, Humane Society of the U.S. president Kitty Block blogged that the “Indiana raid shows why strong laws against cockfighting are essential.”
“Just this year,” Block wrote, “the USDA’s Office of Inspector General brought notorious animal fighters in four states to justice: “Chicken Joe” [Joseph D. Sanford] in California, operators of three large cockfighting venues in Georgia, seven members of the Easterling family in Alabama, and 17 Kentuckians.”
Gave no credit where credit was due
But Block, while extensively crediting the Humane Society of the U.S., failed to mention that the Alabama and Kentucky busts hit longtime targets of Showing Animals Respect & Kindness surveillance, funded by the Humane Farming Association.
“SHARK investigators were on the ground in Kentucky monitoring an illegal cockfighting operation called Bald Rock,” Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 after the July 10, 2021 police raid that caught the 17 Kentuckians.
“We had a drone in the sky and people inside. Once we knew there was a cockfight going on, we alerted the state police, who sent out four cruisers,” plus a game warden.”
(See Cockfighters cut deals & hack reporting doesn’t cut it in Kentucky.)
Spurs, flank straps, & prods
In Los Angeles, California, meanwhile, the city council is currently considering a proposed ordinance that would ban the use of spurs, flank straps and electric prods at both American-style and charreada rodeo.
“San Francisco, San Juan Capistrano, and Pasadena already have restrictions on rodeos, as do Pittsburgh, Leesburg, Virginia , and Fort Wayne, Indiana,” reported Suzanne Rust for the Los Angeles Times.
“Other states, towns, counties and countries have bans on specific events, such as the county of Baltimore, which prohibits calf roping — a sport in which a rider mounted on a horse chases a calf around an arena in an attempt to catch it.”
“Let them have L.A.––who cares?”
Rust found California rodeo promoters making considerable effort to enlist political support from the radical right.
“Our fans across the country have said, ‘Let them have L.A.––who cares?’,” said Sean Gleason, chief executive and commissioner of Professional Bull Riders.
“The sentiment from the rest of the country is that they are just out there,” Gleason told Rust “Why even fight this fight? And my answer to them is this is absolutely the place to fight them,” Gleason said.
Added Tim Baldwin, livestock welfare committee chair for the California Rodeo Salinas,
“I understand that emotions run high on many issues currently, and I hate to use the phrase ‘culture wars,’ but these ordinances tend to stroke that division.”
Fumed Jackie Cota, president of the Tri-Valley Republicans and a resident of Livermore, in Alameda County, California, “The fact that these bleeding hearts get on here and try, once again, to destroy the American way of life is pathetic.
“These are the same people who have made you wear those muzzles on your mouth right now. They want to control you for no reason and tell you there is a deadly virus without providing you with any proof for the last two years. They are Marxists.”
Note: There are far more openly LGBTQ rodeo performers than identifiable Marxist rodeo opponents, either past or present.
Alameda County recently banned “wild cow milking,” long a part of two local rodeos––but the ban applies only to rodeos in the unincorporated part of the county.
Since Livermore is an incorporated city, the Livermore rodeo may continue to feature “wild cow milking.”
(See Horse defenders ask, “Where are the Cheshire cats of equine advocacy?”)
Politics make strange bedfellows
Rodeo promoters meanwhile are also trying to rally opposition to the proposed Los Angeles ordinance from the charreada sector and from supporters of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo held annually since 1984 in Oakland, California, “celebrating the contributions Black cowboys and cowgirls have made building the West.”
A poll of 600 Los Angeles residents, commissioned by Last Chance for Animals, released on November 14, 2022, “found that 72% support banning prods, flank straps, and other tools that force animals to perform,” Last Chance for Animals summarized.
“Strong support across all demographic groups”
“The poll showed strong support for the ordinance across all demographic groups,” Last Chance for Animals said, including 70% approval among African-American respondents and 67% approval among Latino respondents.
Said Last Chance for Animals founder Chris DeRose, “A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that a lobbyist for rodeo was attempting to scare members of the City Council by arguing that banning African American and Latino rodeo events was ‘bad politics.’
“Cynical use of the race card”
“Big Rodeo’s hired guns are sneaking around the halls of the City Council using Los Angeles’s African-American and Latino communities as a prop so they can keep torturing animals for profit,” DeRose charged.
“This cynical use of the race card is not only offensive, the polling data shows it is also dishonest.
“These poll results show what we have known for a long time: that anyone with a heart would oppose using painful prods and straps to terrorize animals into performing,” DeRose said.
Jamaka Petzak says
Culture is one thing, and certainly, culture can and does change with the times. Compassion is quite another, and true compassion is eternal.
Sharing with gratitude–and all of the usual thoughts and feelings.
Eric Mills, coordinator ACTION FOR ANIMALS says
The words of Cesar Chavez (United Farm Workers) bear repeating. From a treasured 12/26/90 letter to ACTION FOR ANIMALS, Oakland:
“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 toawrds all
life will we have learned to live well ourselves.” Words to live by.
Eric Mills, coordinator
ACTION FOR ANIMALS – Oakland
Annoula Wylderich says
It’s interesting how often animal cruelty is presented as “culture” just so perpetrators can get away with it. The actions subjected upon terrified animals in the rodeos and charreadas are rampant abuse for the sake of entertainment, cash rewards and a belt buckle. If that is how any culture or cowboy wishes to be represented, it’s a shameful, embarrassing image that no one should want as their legacy.