Rodeo: Placing Focus upon Animal Welfare and Abolishing Public Misconceptions

Rodeos are commonly perceived as an event that involves cowboys and horses, wherein the cowboys ride a bucking horse. However, the real rodeo is much more complicated and varied in its ways. Current rodeo shows, which slightly differ from location to location, present various timed events and rough stock events; these events include calf roping, breakaway roping, team roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling, goat tying, bronc riding, bull riding, steer roping, steer daubing, and pole bending, depending on what the supporting rodeo firm allows (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association [PRCA], n.d.a).

The variety of events also presents an insight into the array of animals used in rodeo events. Goats, bulls, horses, steers, and other animals are utilized for different purposes or specific game mechanics. In relation to this, in a rodeo it is usual for one to see a struggle between the animals and the people, where the people may get impaled or trampled, but the animals are considered to be exposed to physical danger as well.

In steer roping events for example, wherein a steer is tripped, landing head first in order to be subdued and tied since conventional methods of roping are not applicable due to the size of the steer. Usually, the person will try to tie several portions of the steer from different angles while riding another animal in order to gain speed; in the end, the steer may be dragged across the ground to induce complete immobilization. The landing is not the only thing that seems harmful; the way in which the body of the steer is tied makes it also appear to be quite contorted.

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The steer is a large animal; thus, people may perceive it as quite tough with high level of endurance. However, the portrayal of cruelty seems to be more connected upon events such as calf roping. The calf is a much smaller animal to contend with. Hence, it is rather easy to imagine that the animal may be manhandled given that a person has sufficient physical prowess. In this event, it is not hard for a common person to think about the significant risk placed upon the calf, as broken bones, bruises, and other injuries are not that difficult to envision in such physical activities.

Hence, such images seen in rodeo events are what induce the general community or population to think of rodeo as something that is highly cruel towards animals. However, keep in mind that any type of ahtletic or sports event may seem dangerous to an extent, however the danger is minimized since the athletes are appropriate for a given sport. In fact, the association of the masses between the potential danger that they see to animal cruelty is quite faulty. With the public perception of rodeo as cruel to animals still standing strong, also given that there is a focus today regarding animal welfare, the rodeo is therefore easily selected against. This presents the reason why in several states and countries, rodeo shows are strictly prohibited due to their supposed harmful effects towards animals used in the shows.

However, in reality, majority of rodeo events, especially those that are conducted and supported by the significant bodies in the rodeo industry such as the PRCA and Professional Bull Riders Incorporated (PBR), taking care of the animals and ensuring that no significant harm may come to them is considered as a top priority. Thus, one may wonder the reason why the general public perceives rodeo as cruel towards animals even though it focuses towards its welfare. The reason behind such mindset towards rodeo is that the sport is commonly indicted in various forms of media without having a proper defense.

Leakages of videos of several rodeo shows have furthered public resentment towards rodeo in general. The information regarding rodeo shows has revealed the use of various tools in order to induce the drive of the animals to buck or flee. Electric shock devices, ropes, whips, and other devices are used even before the animals are let loose. Without the use of devices, cowboys can still cause harm to the animals by slapping, kicking, and such, which are sometimes a considerable necessity in order to induce the desired animal response. Hence, even during the times when an animal does not really compete in the field, it still suffers from ill treatment and possible injuries.

With such proof, it is not difficult to assess why the resentment that the general population has towards rodeo is considerably growing. As more cruel images are released to the public, the more the people believe that rodeo must be abolished. Together with the supposed rules that official rodeo associations have imposed, which are constantly believed to be mere lies based on the videos and news released by animal activists, the credibility of rodeo and its supporters is further destabilized.

However, the rodeo cannot be completely banned and must be able to continuously aim for a wider acceptance since it entails a large historical significance. A tradition must not be destroyed; hence, rodeo must not be selected against. Just like in any sport, negative representations may be derived from the actions made by minority groups. This does not mean that the whole sport embodies the negative representations. It is a fact that the masses tend to react conclusively based on minimal evidence with questionable origin, as in this case, the evidences based on the cruelty towards animals exhibited by rodeo events which are clearly not in support of the current policies made by the dominant figures in the rodeo industry. Therefore, in order to show the real representation of mainstream rodeo that does not support animal cruelty, significant steps must be done and details must be clearly explained to the public.

    The general aim of this essay is to present possible solutions to the problem of cruelty to animals in rodeo and find possible ways where people will begin to think of rodeo to be free of any sort of animal abuse. In this sense, since most of the information that the public has regarding cruelty to animals in rodeo events is derived from multimedia sources and not firsthand experience, it is possible to create actions or steps in order to solve the problem through multimedia-related approaches as well.

Taking into consideration that multimedia is a source of problems regarding the creation of negative perceptions regarding rodeo, why not eliminate the harmful forms of the source itself. Thus, a complete ban of cameras during live events should be implemented and in the process, eliminate any possible presence of animal activist investigators posing as normal members of the crowd.

As stated, the animal rights activists pose a problem to the reputation of rodeo as they utilize videos of unprofessional isolated cases wherein cruelty may be shown. It is also possible that these animal rights activists may use video footage of official rodeo shows and present them in the same light as the other rodeo events which have caused cruelty.

The ban of cameras should be implemented upon entrance; or rather, those with forms of audio visual recording devices shall not be allowed to enter. The reason for this is to prevent the possibility of any incidence of violence from occuring within the rodeo grounds. Agitated or tense supporters or participants may perceive the presence of the camera as a threat in which the goodness of rodeo may be in exposed to peril, leading to a possible attack on the person which carries the camera. This is very possible especially in small or remote rodeo events where a real security force may not be present.

If such cases happen, even if the camera is eliminated, the aggravated person may seek for the help of others or write about the situation in publications or in the web, leading to further damage in terms of the credibility of rodeo as a place of humane individuals that opt to care for the animals instead of mistreating them. If the number of videos regarding the images, which may impart the message that rodeo is indeed cruel and does not prioritize animal welfare, is significantly decreased, if not eliminated, then the factors that fuel the negative thoughts of the masses will also be considerably lessened as well.

 This is a good starting approach towards improving the public perception regarding rodeo. The problem with this approach, if used alone, is that a valid reason may not be given to the people as to why such devices are to be banned. Possible explanations may be given, such as possible interference to established equipment in the rodeo arena, but these kinds of explanations are almost never left unquestioned. It can be said that a lack of knowledge regarding a subject might lead to a build up of doubt from the masses. Therefore, additional steps must be taken in order to lessen potential doubts that may create negative thoughts regarding rodeo, albeit imaginary in nature.

People may not question the integrity of institutions or associations which concern themselves partly with humanitarian goals. In other words, if the PBR will use media to convey a sense of charitable events derived from rodeo, then probably the doubts of the people will be lessened.

For example, why not produce a rodeo event which supports research for finding a cure for cancer? Another example would be a rodeo event which supports the fight against attention-deficient/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or any other disorder or disease that concerns children. If such events materialize, then the attention or focus of the masses will be placed upon the positive side and not on the commonly believed negative side of rodeo events.

These events may probably place additional cost or less income for the corporation or the group which will hold the show, but in the long run, it will definitely help in lessening the stigma that rodeo has acquired. In fact, some rodeo shows that also double as charity or non-profit events are already starting to appear; examples of these events are the Venice Invitational and the CCA Star Rodeo events (Rigs, Reefs, and Wrecks Inc. [RRWI], 2009). The general sense in this, pertaining to the task of showing how rodeo is not in any way cruel to animals, is that if people who are associated with rodeo care for others so much, then why would they not show compassion towards the animals?

Charity is a good start, but additional steps in order to further boost the public image of rodeo may also include enlisting the support of other companies which may act as sponsors in the rodeo events. Currently, the events of PBR are sponsored by prominent brands such as Ford, Wrangler, Jack Daniels, Dickies, US Bank, Home Depot, and a lot more (Professional Bull Riders Inc. [PBR], 2009). These companies have a considerably large following. Hence, it is possible that fans of their services may also become attracted to rodeo. Negative effects may seem possible in which the negative perception regarding rodeo may be transmitted into the companies that sponsor its events.

Given that most of these companies mentioned are significantly widespread and well established even in other countries, such harm may not be significant. People will continue to support the companies for the product that they produce; the presence of sponsorships is but a secondary concern for the buyers. Hence, it will be a slight attention grabber in which rodeo is supported by such well respected firms, giving the impression that rodeo is as respectable of the rights of any being as the firms that provide the sponsorships with pride.

Since the aforementioned methods mainly pertain to the developed, working, and thinking component of the society it must not be thought however that approaches in eliminating the perception of the masses regarding the animal cruelty in rodeo is limited to targeting adults and older age groups.

Children and younger age groups have a highly malleable mind set. Hence, advertising the concept of rodeo to members of these age groups will definitely have a profound effect upon their growth. Take into consideration a child that plays often with rodeo toys and even rodeo videogames. Throughout his development, he will definitely become attached to the concept of rodeo. Especially through videogames, the child will be exposed to the exciting parts of the rodeo.

As the child grows older, he or she will perceive the treatment to animals in rodeo to be necessary and conducted with a focus in maintaining the welfare of the animals. Through these toys and games, the child will learn that the animals are in no real danger even though they are used in these events in various manners, as the success of a rodeo event relies upon the capability of the animals. To attest to the importance of the children in portraying the positive side of rodeo to the masses, there are also family-associated activities which are conducted in several rodeo shows which even include grand parades (Van Detta, 2007).

When children with such exposure to rodeo grow up and finally become the next generation of adults, the rodeo industry will then have a considerable amount of supporters since they understand the sport better. The problem with such a task however, is that, although they definitely embody significant fun factor or amusement derived from the event, the rodeo-based toys, videogames, or family activities have not reached mainstream toy or videogame status. Another obstacle with such an ambitious task is that even if children will like rodeo toys or games during development, it does not necessarily mean that they will absolutely support rodeo or not perceive it as a case of animal rights violation later on during adulthood.

There is also a possibility of attracting the attention of both young and old through the use of commercials. If the rodeo associations will produce commercials, either on television or on the web, that present a view wherein rodeo is regarded as a family event of rich cultural backgrounds with focus upon the welfare of their animal athletes it will certainly gain positive public perception as public knowledge is increased. Hence, it is vital to tailor the commercials in a way wherein rodeo is shown to be protective of the animals as well.

Giving out positive messages to the masses in a continuous fashion will certainly have an effect on their perspective. Hence, if rodeo commercials or advertisements are produced correctly and are presented efficiently, it may persuade the masses to view rodeo as something that harnesses the prowess of animals in which their safety is still of utmost priority. Also, a message pertaining to the cultural significance will lead to the association of rodeo with nationalistic events.

As presented through the possible solutions or methods discussed, it can be made possible that such an association be minimized, if not abolished. The discussed solutions, however, are more of indirect and propaganda type of approach. A more direct approach also presents benefits as well and is already being established by the major firms that handle rodeo events.

As presented in the discussion regarding animal cruelty videos, one significant source of proof that cruelty to animals is present in rodeo is the local or small rodeo events in various minor locations which do not follow proper protocols. Unlike the large rodeo corporations, some of these events do not have any sort of rules that might protect the animals. Hence, it is rather likely that animal activists get their most shocking videos from these events.

A very direct solution to this problem is to abolish such events. Indeed, without those rodeo events wherein videos of calves and even sheep are strangled to death, electrically shocked, slapped, and even kicked in the privates then rodeo would not have any sort of negative public perception. There are also footages in the internet regarding animal to animal accidents, where a horse is rammed by a bull in one of the events. Injuries and death while inside the chute or animal containment cell are also evident in such rodeo events since the mistreatment even starts there.

Directly related to this problem is the use of domesticated animals in rodeo shows. As mentioned, this is an evident problem in minor shows; hence, it is not a problem for shows supported by large companies. The use of domesticated animals presents an opportunity to portray a prolonged agitation period before the animals even begin to buck. Hence, tools to inflict pain and discomfort are used on such animals. In contrast, animals that naturally exhibit bucking behavior are easily utilized in rodeo shows without the need for considerable amounts of physical stimuli. Not only does the use of domesticated animals a way in which cruelty may be exhibited, but it also prevents the audience to watch a highly exciting show from the start.

Hence, closing down such minor rodeo events will definitely be beneficial to the cause, as a significant level of notoriety that the rodeo industry has gained was mainly due to such minor rodeo shows with much disregard upon policies. The feasibility of such an approach however is questionable as it is probable that it will cause uproar in such areas. Thus, it is more efficient to provide a sort of authenticity in such shows.

If an unified worldwide or even American-based rodeo council is produced to ensure that updated rules regarding the increase of safety for the participating animals. If such rules with changes for animal welfare is currently provided by the PBR and the PRCA are strictly followed, then great improvements in the public perception of rodeo will arise. It should become a rule or even a law that unsanctioned or unregistered rodeo events, which do not have a council representative, is illegal and will be shut down. In fact, PRCA members are bound by its rules when conducting rodeo events (PRCA, n.d b). Such strict enforcement of rules or laws will be beneficial, as the animal rights activists commonly attack the lack of action in using rules aimed for animal welfare.

In this sense, lesser incidents of cruelty towards animals can be addressed through the use of updated rules in rodeo. The PBR presents several updated regulations aimed towards the welfare of the animals used. One such example is the use redesigned chutes which can reduce the risk of severe leg injury. Another example of positive changes is that injured animals which can no longer compete are retired and allowed to live their lives and able to reproduce in captivity.

In terms of health, the PBR ensures that the animals are well fed with an optimal mix of food sources. Grain and alfalfa are given to the animals at significant amounts per day so as to maintain top shape; vitamins are also given at regular intervals. Additional focus on the welfare and health is also provided in terms of transportation from venue to venue, where the animals are provided a cushion of sawdust during transport to prevent travel-related injuries (PBR, n.d.).

The main reason that PBR presents to those with doubt in the validity of their rules as to why they follow it strictly is that the animals they utilize are rather costly; hence, allowing harm towards health and possibilities of injuries are not beneficial to the business (PBR, n.d.). In this sense, if the rules are truly followed and people are informed of the changes, then the public perception on rodeo as a risk to animal welfare will slowly be reduced and eventually be eliminated. The important thing is for the companies to provide the public with continuous proof of their animal welfare pursuits in terms of the animals used in rodeo. In relation to the validity of the reason of PBR for supporting animal welfare, since PBR is a corporation which of course is in need of income and aims to avoid potential losses, their point is well supported.

In addition to these profit-oriented views on the focus on animal welfare, it is a significant truth that a considerable amount of the livestock providers and rodeo participants are in fact veterinarians who are definitely attached to their animal companions (PRCA, n.d. b). People must be educated with the fact that mainstream or proper rodeo events are composed of individuals who are clearly inclined to care for their animal partners and are imbued with such compassion towards the animals. These not only include the participants but also the judges in the rodeo events. Due to the fact that the judges of the events themselves are compassionate towards the animals and follow the policies regarding it, rodeo events, which are in part supported by PRCA members, are assured of prioritizing the safety of the animal contenders (PRCA, n.d.b). These changes in terms of rules and policies are definitely important in presenting to the masses a rodeo that is more focused on animal welfare and is not part of any form of animal cruelty.

In relation to such changes, it is then indeed possible for a rodeo company to portray a focus that is more inclined towards animal welfare, given that such rules are truly followed. Animal activists, however, point out that PBR, PRCA, and the companies that serve as its sources of animals are in constant violation of theses rules, one of the most significant being the use of inappropriate animals for rodeo purposes. However, such claims of animal activists especially in this case, are only presented in text and have no substantial support in terms of evidence. As stated in the details released by PBR, only animals readily capable of bucking are utilized in events (PBR, n.d.). Hence, these steps can be brought towards the creation of a system that further supports the welfare of the animals and further reduces imagery of animal cruelty associated with rodeo.

Changes and strict application of the rules and policies should not be the limit in the actions of the rodeo companies or groups, as the public will not automatically be updated with such. The eventual aim therefore is to let the public know that changes are being done and currently being followed, and in order to further establish their point, proof of their actions may be publicly presented.

The goal of showing the world how rodeo is currently free of any form of cruelty towards animals is definitely hindered by some negative examples which are taken advantage of by animal rights activists in order to portray a negative image of rodeo to the public. However, the truth is, only a minority of unsupported and possibly illegal rodeo events in remote areas exhibit such disregard towards animal welfare.

Hence, it is important for supporters of rodeo to provide the public with positive images of rodeo wherein animal welfare is of utmost priority. As mentioned, steps towards abolishing the association of rodeo with cruelty to animals can be achieved through different approaches such as information dissemination through multimedia, improving the list of event sponsors, hosting charity events, letting the public know of the changes in policies that further support animal welfare, and others. Therefore, as with all the approaches, the important thing to be done is to increase the public knowledge regarding the truth about rodeo and how wrong the stereotypical view regarding the sport is.


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