Cultural defenses of steer-tailing and bullfighting ignore both U.S. anti-cruelty laws and 456 years of Catholic prohibition
BELVIDERE, Illinois; LOS ANGELES, California––Responded Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi to the December 6, 2023 report Los Angeles council vote against rodeo opens new fight against charreada, which also mentioned that a Boone County, Illinois council subcommittee had voted in favor of an ordinance to ban “steer tailing,” the sole event at charreadas held in the county, just outside Chicago:
“We shouldn’t take more than about five minutes to celebrate these wins,” emailed Hindi, “because our opposition will be exponentially increasing their efforts to come back. Bans can be killed, and there is too much money in it for the fake cowboys for it to be otherwise.
“Race baiting and any other branch they can grasp”
“Our opposition will use race baiting and any other branch they can grasp to stay alive,” Hindi warned, citing racially inflammatory coverage of the Los Angeles city council vote by Andrew Giagnola of Rodeo Daily, a subsection of the Sports Illustrated web site, and of the Boone County vote by Maria Gardner Lara of Northern Public Radio.
Hindi might also have mentioned, but did not, how bullfighting promoters successfully used a defense based on cultural heritage to exempt bullfights from a new Spanish animal protection law passed on September 29, 2023, even though bullfighting has repeatedly been decisively rejected both by elected legislators and directly by voters in referendums in Catalonia, the northeastern part of Spain including the cities of Barcelona and Valencia.
“Rodeo thugs have no boundaries”
The current defense of rodeo and charreada steer-tailing, like rodeo and steer-tailing themselves, appears to be directly descended from decades of arguments used by the bullfighting industry to seek protection as a cultural heritage from the Spanish federal government and the European Union.
“Rodeo thugs have no boundaries. We must counter their nonsense at each and every turn,” Hindi added.
“The bottom line, which we ignore at the animals’ peril,” Hindi said, “is that our fight to buck the myth [of rodeo as a cultural heritage] has only begun. We still have a very long way to go forward, and if we take our eye off the ball, we could instead lose everything gained so far.”
Illinois Office of Attorney General ignores Humane Care for Animals Act
Hindi wrote four hours before receiving and forwarding a November 30, 2023 memo from Amy Meek and Alexandra Reed of the Civil Rights Bureau within the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, currently headed by Kwame Raoul.
The Office of the Illinois Attorney General is the agency supposed to enforce, among other duties, the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act.
The Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act plainly states, as the very first precept of the law, that “No person or owner may beat, cruelly treat, torment, starve, overwork or otherwise abuse any animal.”
Though the Office of the Illinois Attorney General has historically been reluctant to enforce the law against any profitable activity conducted as entertainment, nothing in the law exempts either American-style rodeo, as Hindi has for more than 30 years repeatedly pointed out with posted videos of rodeo cruelty and public demonstrations, or charreada, a Showing Animals Respect & Kindness investigative and campaign target since mid-2022.
Attorneys Meek & Reed apparently did not research charreada
Wrote Meek and Reed to Boone County Board chair Rodney Riley and Boone County state’s attorney Tricia Smith:
“The Office of the Illinois Attorney General has received a complaint alleging that the Board is considering permanent restrictions on ‘Mexican-style’ rodeos, also known as charreadas, which would disproportionately affect Hispanic residents and property owners in Boone County, while exempting ‘American-style’ rodeos associated with non-Hispanic residents and property owners.”
From their first sentence, Meek and Reed made clear that they had not investigated what they were talking about. Steer-tailing, the subject of the proposed Boone County ordinance, is only one of the nine standard events in charreada.
What is charreada?
Horse-tripping, involved in three of the other standard charreada events, is already illegal in the entire state of Illinois, and many other states.
Neither steer-tailing, in which riders frequently strip the flesh from steers’ tails in attempting to throw them down by the tail, nor horse-tripping, have any parallel in American-style rodeo.
Three other charreada events, bull riding, bareback bronc riding, and team roping, are essentially the same as in American-style rodeo.
Two other charreada events are different, but are not apparent violations of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act.
In short, while the Boone County charreada promoters have thus far chosen to present only steer-tailing, which does appear to clearly violate the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act, nothing in the proposed Boone County ordinance would prohibit anything that American-style rodeo presenters do, or prevent Boone County charreada promoters from holding charreadas featuring the other five standard charreada events.
Allegations without evidence
Continued Meek and Reed, “Complaints have also alleged that a temporary moratorium and amendments to the zoning ordinance target these ‘Mexican-style’ rodeos, while exempting ‘American-style’ rodeos held at the Boone County Fairgrounds and other temporary uses from those same restrictions.
“Some complaints have alleged,” Meek and Reed said, offering no supporting evidence, “that the [Boone County] board has denied a disproportionate number of special use permit applications submitted by Hispanic property owners, compared to similarly-situated non-Hispanic permit applicants, due to a focus on restricting specifically ‘Mexican-style’ rodeos.”
Again, the issue, as Meek and Reed should have known, had they asked any questions at all, has never been the five charreada events which are not either steer-tailing or already illegal throughout Illinois.
Cite Civil Rights Act but not Humane Care for Animals Act
“These allegations, if true, may violate anti-discrimination laws, including the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, the Illinois Human Rights Act, and the Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions,” Meek and Reed asserted, without reference to the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act, which might be interpreted to mandate that cities and counties act to prevent and prohibit violations.
“As the [Boone County] board considers whether to maintain or enact restrictions in this area,” Meek and Reed said, “we write to provide the board with information regarding these applicable anti-discrimination laws.
“As a county government body,” Meek and Reed reminded, “the Boone County board is subject to the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003,” which prohibits state, county, and local governments from excluding a person from participation in, denying a person the benefits of, or subjecting a person to discrimination under any program or activity based on that person’s race, color, national origin, or gender,” and “further prohibits the use of criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination based on a protected characteristic, regardless of intent.”
What are “protected characteristics” of illegal acts?
Meek and Reed failed to explain just what might be a “protected characteristic” of a public event consisting wholly of alleged violations of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act.
Even if steer-tailing itself, through some gross distortion of the intent of the law, might be held to not be cruel treatment or torment, running the same steers through the charreada to be thrown down 15 to 20 times a day would clearly be “overwork,” in view that the animals used in American-style rodeo are normally used only once.
Meek and Reed continued with another four paragraphs of rhetoric reciting that “it is also illegal to use criteria or methods that are facially neutral but that have ‘a disproportionately adverse effect’ on members of a protected class,” and that “Even if a challenged practice or policy is otherwise justified by a legitimate rationale, it will not be permitted to stand if there is an available alterative that would serve the same purpose but have a less discriminatory effect.”
Did Meek & Reed mean American-style rodeo should also be banned?
One might interpret the Meek and Reed memo to Boone County as meaning that American-style rodeo should be prohibited along with steer-tailing, an interpretation Hindi and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness supporters would no doubt welcome.
The sole issue at hand, however, is steer-tailing, inherently involving cruelty and torment, prohibited by the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act no matter who does it, why.
Meek and Reed concluded by citing several purported precedents that would prevent Boone County from banning steer-tailing, none of which have any evident application to the actual issues, but inclusion of the citations might be supposed to have made the memo look more threatening.
Among the citations were:
- Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc. v. Puerto Rico, a case concerning a Virginia company refusing to hire Puerto Rican apple pickers;
- Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs. v, Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., concerning the allocation of low-income housing tax credits;
- City of Urbana v. Andrew and People w. Hollins, involving juvenile justice procedures and the prosecution of child pornography;
- and St. John’s United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, about the destruction of a cemetery that was expropriated to build O’Hare International Airport.
None of those cases had anything to do with anyone claiming to be a “protected class” entitled therefore to commit cruelty to animals––or any other criminal offense––with impunity.
New Spanish law bans everything but bullfights & hunting with dogs
What happened in Spain on September 29, 2023, explained Associated Press, is that “A new animal welfare law,” passed by the Spanish legislature in March 2023, “outlaws the use of animals for recreational activities that cause them pain and suffering, but allows bullfights and hunting with dogs.
“It bans the sale of dogs, cats and ferrets in stores or online, but gives stores a grace period to find homes for their animals. In the future, it only will be legal to purchase pets from registered breeders.
“The new rules allow pets into most establishments, including restaurants and bars.
Bans shock collars & tethering
The new Spanish law also “prohibits the use of electronic or punitive dog collars, tying animals to moving motor vehicles is now prohibited, makes it obligatory to spay cats unless the owner has a breeding permit,” and requires “Shipping companies, airlines and trains to take measures to facilitate pet access, as long as the owner respects security measures and ensures the correct behavior of the animal.
Further, “a pet may not be left unattended for more than three consecutive days, a period that is reduced to 24 hours in the case of dogs.
“Leaving dogs or cats on terraces or patios, although not prohibited, is now time-limited.
“Pet owners will not be able to leave their animals alone inside closed vehicles or exposed to any thermal conditions that could put their lives in danger.
“Animals cannot be allowed to be left alone or tied up in public spaces, which means no leaving your dog outside the supermarket.”
Requires laboratories to be licensed
Pet-keepers may no longer keep more than five animals.
The new law further requires laboratories using animals to be licensed, prohibits testing cosmetics on animals, and mandates that laboratories must follow the “Three Rs” principles of trying to reduce, refine, and replace the numbers of animals used in experiments and product testing.
The use of wildlife in circuses is prohibited, though zoos may continue using marine animals for exhibition for the balance of their lives.
But torturing bulls and horses to death before paying crowds and hounding wildlife remain legal, as they have through previous iterations of a national humane law adopted in 1877, prohibiting only cruelty to dogs, and in 1928.
Torturing bulls & other animals at religious festivals
“Approximately 60,000 animals are killed in festivals throughout Spain each year,” according to Wikipedia, citing claims by Spanish animal advocates.
“Activities at these festivals,” says Wikipedia, “include pulling the heads off live chickens, throwing live turkeys off a church tower, bullfighting, chasing bulls off piers into the sea, chasing bulls down the streets with flaming brands attached to their horns, and dragging a bull by his horns and forcing him to bow in front of the statue of a saint before being slaughtered.
“An estimated 11,000 bulls were tortured and killed in Spanish festivals in 2014.”
All of these abuses have been subjects of animal advocacy campaigns at various times over the past 30 years, but how many of these activities continue is unclear.
Banned by Catholic Church since 1567
Attempts to stop Spanish bullfighting as pointless cruelty have been made, detailed the late Michael A. Ogorzaly (1948-2006) in The Case Against Bullfighting (2006) since 1567, when Pope Pious V in the papal bull De salute gregis dominici forbade bullfighting as an entertainment “more proper of demons than humans.”
Pope Pious V excommunicated emperors, kings and cardinals who would not ban bullfights, and clerics who attended bullfights, and excluded bullfighters from Christian burial.
Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Gasparri affirmed in 1920 that, The Church maintains His Holiness Pious V s condemnation of such bloody, shameful shows.”
Monsignor Mario Canciani reiterated the Vatican position in 1989.
Vatican theologian Marie Hendrickx reiterated it yet again in 2000 in the semi-official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.