Rodeos: An American Embarrassment
Updated: May 16
By Ashley Roth
America was built on dirty culture. Embarrassing culture. Even worse, we often refuse to grow from our past, to recreate ourselves into an aware and compassionate society. Examples of this legacy are plentiful. For now, let’s focus on rodeos.
You know the event. South Dakota, Wyoming, and Texas embrace these cruelties as their state sport. But, let’s be frank. This isn’t a sport. It’s barbaric and a poor reflection on humanity. Need some credibility to this claim? Let’s delve further.
Rodeos consist of many parts–one of these is roping. The name says it all. This “heroic” cowboy rides a horse around while wrapping a noose around either a calf or an adult steer. Other nooses loop around the terrified calf’s ankles, all while trying to keep him or her upright. If the baby’s legs cave in and they fall, this “poor” cowboy has keep repeating the act until the calf remains upright. Gee, we don’t want our country’s beloved emblem to work too hard.
The most known form of roping is tie-down. Yeah–it’s exactly how it sounds. Team roping is where an entire group chase a frightened steer. Where is the entertainment in looping ropes around scared animals? And that isn’t all. Another heinous version of roping is breakaway roping–done with a shorter rope that the calf breaks free from. They run without being tied down. Many states and cities have opted for this version, thinking it’s a humane alternative. They’re wrong. The only humane alternative is abolishing rodeos completely.
"The rodeo folks send their animals to the packing houses where...I have seen cattle so extensively bruised that the only areas in which the skin was attached was the head, neck, legs, and belly. I have seen animals with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and at times puncturing the lungs. I have seen as much as two and three gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin." -Dr. C. G. Haber, a veterinarian with thirty years experience as a USDA meat inspector
Roping is derived from ranch practices, where calves and older cows are tied down for branding–you know, they tie down animals and mark them as property with scalding irons. Can you believe someone was inspired by this act and made it into a spectator “sport?”
Some other festivities at rodeos include steer wrestling–I don’t think an explanation is needed–and goat tying. This is a variation of roping designed to welcome children into their destiny of mistreating animals. Not forgetting to mention mutton busting, which is similar to bronc riding, and calf chasing, which is just what it sounds like, children chasing terrified baby animals. That’s the most devastating part–when children are encouraged to mistreat and exploit others. It’s a common thread in all discrimination and societal structures where one group is deemed superior to another.
Rodeos are depicted through their iconic image. A cowboy on a bucking horse. Sure, rodeos have these horses. These horses aren’t bucking because they love an audience. No, they have to be provoked by fear, anxiety, or irritation. Rodeos usually choose a hotshot to make their docile captives buck around for human entertainment. In case the name hotshot wasn’t definitive enough–it’s an electrical shock. If this was done to another human, it would be called torture, right? I guess “some animals are more equal than others” (Orwell has the best political quotes).
There are some rodeo supporters who would lead you to believe that the whole show has progressed, that the most heinous components have been eradicated or altered. They might tell you how several states have banned steer roping, and some have banned other roping variations. These slight adjustments aren’t enough. Rodeos are still cruel. Animals are still forced to perform by use of electric prods, painful spurs, or bucking straps. What is a bucking strap, you ask? Oh, just another cruel provocation tool used in rodeos. Bucking straps are tightened around animals’ heaving middles, designed to irritate them and to get them to buck in an effort to free themselves. These straps aren’t just annoying–they’re painful.
"I treated saddle horses with wounds to their mouths from abusive use of the bit. One horse had half his tongue severed. I saw lots of so-called “minor” injuries, like cuts and abrasions, lameness, and eye injuries." -Peggy Larson, DVM, MS, JD (Former bronc rider, veterinary medical officer with the USDA, Vermont State Veterinarian and Chief of Livestock and Meat Inspection)
Need more proof that rodeos are disgusting excuses for entertainment? Look up injury and death statistics. You’ll probably stumble on the Calgary Stampede. That’s where nine horses died in 2005, a steer obtained a spinal cord injury in 2009. and six horses died in 2010. Maybe in your Google search you’ll see the Denver rodeo. Colorado hosted the injuries of nine animals and the deaths of two more. I could go on…
But, I think you get the point. They’re not fun. They’re sadistic in that serial killer-sociopathic kind of way.
For the animals. For the atonement of American culture.