Will the Los Angeles ordinance really stop steer-tailing & other rodeo mayhem?
LOS ANGELES, California; BELVIDERE, Illinois––The Los Angeles City Council on December 5, 2023 voted 14-0 to ban rodeos within the city, nominally resolving a multi-year debate but actually referring the most heated issues to a three-member panel for further debate.
Steer-tailing ban recommended in Chicago suburb
Hours after the Los Angeles City Council met, a subcommittee of the Boone County, Illinois county council voted 3-0 to ban steer tailing, the focal event in charreada “Mexican style” rodeos held locally.
Severely injurious violence toward both steers and horses has been extensively documented at Boone County charreadas since 2022 by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness.
Boone County is an outlying suburb of Chicago.
The Boone County council as a whole is tentatively expected to approve the steer tailing ban, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7.
However, Hindi acknowledged that the vote would likely be close, since several members of the Boone County council have adamantly refused even to look at videos of steers’ tails being “degloved,” steers suffering broken legs, injured steers being left to suffer for hours without veterinary attention, and steers being run through the charreada chutes to be thrown down by their tails a dozen or more times a day.
San Diego rodeo lawsuit
Both the Los Angeles and the Boone County actions may set unofficial, non-binding political precedents for a possible rodeo ban in San Diego, one of several critical responses raised in response to scheduled three-day rodeo to be held at PetCo Park, home of the San Diego Padres major league baseball team, January 12-14, 2024.
The rodeo would be the first held in the 44,445-seat ballpark since it opened in 2004.
The San Diego-based Animal Protection & Rescue League, Inc. and Showing Animals Respect and Kindness [SHARK] on November 2, 2023 sued the San Diego Padres, C5 Rodeo, and C5 Rodeo Company, Inc., seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the PetCo Park rodeo as an alleged violation of the city-issued stadium operating permit.
The case is set for a December 14, 2023 hearing.
Will death of stadium owner affect the issue?
While no rodeo has been held in the city of San Diego in approximately 40 years, small annual rodeos are held in the San Diego County cities of Poway, Ramona, and Lakeside.
Peter Seidler, 63, majority owner of the Padres and PetCo Park, died on November 23, 2023 after a multi-year battle with health conditions including type 1 diabetes and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
His widow Sheel Seidler, involved in “cutting” competitions [herding cattle using quarter horses], often held in conjunction with rodeos, is believed to be the driving force behind the PetCo Park rodeo.
Los Angeles charros win potentially weakening amendment
Charreada turned out to be the most controversial issue on the floor in Los Angeles, as in Boone County
“Just before the vote,” recounted Suzanne Rust and Dakota Smith of the Los Angeles Times, council member Bob Blumenfield, the sponsor of the proposed rodeo ban, “introduced an amendment that was co-sponsored by the most vocal public opponent of the measure, council member Monica Rodriguez, who represents the East Valley,” a 59% Latino district.
Explained Rust and Smith, “The amendment — a combination of two separate amendments, one written by Blumenfield, the other by Rodriguez — attempted to assuage concerns that the ban would prevent cultural events such as charrería, which is popular in Mexico, as well as the Bill Pickett Rodeo,” a national event for African American rodeo participants scheduled for February 2024.”
Bill Pickett Rodeo & Pro Bull Riders win reprieve
With the amendment, however, the February 2024 Bill Pickett Rodeo and a Professional Bull Riders: Unleash the Beast event also scheduled for February 2024 appear to have “a reprieve, at least for this year,” assessed Hillel Aron for Courthouse News Service.
The amendment, wrote Rust and Smith, “carved out exceptions for equestrian and cultural events, including charrería, as long as participants don’t engage in events where there is bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping, or anything involving ‘physically taking down an animal,’ ‘roping an animal,’ or ‘attempting to ride a bucking animal.’”
Presumably this will include steer tailing, the object of which is to yank a running steer down by the tail, but the devil will be in the details hammered out by the committee appointed to oversee how the Los Angeles city attorney’s office drafts the ordinance required by the 14-0 city council vote.
Rodriguez appeared at anti-rodeo ban rally
“Just before the council meeting,” Rust and Smith noted, “Rodriguez appeared at an anti-ban rally, where dozens of rodeo aficionados — some on horses, some wearing traditional rodeo attire — trotted up and down Main Street outside City Hall.”
Said Blumenfeld to fellow Los Angeles city council members before the vote, “”The amendment today changes what you see in the council file. And what was there before was banning the instruments of torture that caused the pain to the animals.
“But unfortunately, that confused some folks. Originally, I thought that was the way to go. Because it was very specific, but people started thinking, well, maybe it will apply to something else, and that it could potentially be interpreted too broadly. They thought they could not go horseback riding or participate in charrería events or do dressage or trail runs. We wanted to make sure that those things were not captured.
“Not about re-litigating” says Blumenfeld
“I don’t want to throw a monkey wrench into the kumbaya here,” Blumenfeld continued, “but I want to make it clear this is not about re-litigating.”
Blumenfeld, however, also said “We are going to define rodeos not to include equestrian and charrería events; American Indian or Indigenous rodeo events, etc.,” if the event in question does not include the “compromising” activities supposed to have been banned.
That leaves the whole matter about as clear as the cloud of flying dust and manure in a rodeo or charreria center ring.
Ordinance had already been watered down
“The proposed ordinance will next head to the council’s Neighborhoods & Community Enrichment Committee,” Rust and Smith said, “with that three-member panel considering whether the city attorney’s draft does ‘what we are telling them to do,’ Blumenfeld noted.”
The original proposed Los Angeles rodeo ordinance, approved by the city council in December 2022, would have barred the use of electric prods or shocking devices, flank or bucking straps, wire tie-downs, and sharpened or fixed spurs or rowels at “all rodeo or rodeo related events” in Los Angeles,” Rust and Smith recalled.
“The full council never voted on the ordinance, instead switching the focus to an outright ban,” Rust and Smith added.
Horse-tripping banned since 1994
One standard charreada event, horse tripping, has been banned throughout California since 1994.
“California was the first state in the country to outlaw horse tripping,” according to Eric Mills of Action for Animals, “soon followed by a dozen other states,” but “Only Nebraska has banned both horse tripping and steer tailing.
“There is no California state law banning steer tailing, also known as colas, or coleaderos,” Mills adds, but campaigns by Action for Animals brought prohibitions of both horse tripping and steer tailing in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Alameda County also banned “mutton busting” in 2019, in which small children try to ride sheep, and banned so-called wild cow milking in 2022, described by Mills as “a timed event in which a lactating beef cow, unused to human handling, has been wrangled from the fields and brought to an arena.”
Rodeo restricted in other cities
There are restrictions in effect on rodeo events in any other cities. The Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena and rival city San Francisco, 380-odd miles north, along with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, nearly 2,500 miles east, already prohibit the use of spurs, flank straps, and electric prods.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, unlike some of the surrounding suburbs in Los Angeles County, has not been a major rodeo venue in decades––actually, not since 1928, when the rodeo industry, led by film stars Will Rogers and Hoot Gibson, crushed statewide Amendment 21, to ban rodeo, by a 64% to 36%.
The campaign for passage, led by the Oakland-based Latham Foundation, was outspent many times over by rodeo promoters.
At that, though, Amendment 21 won the support of the Parent Teachers Association, the Young Men’s Christian Association, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and every major humane society in California.