Assemblymember wants to prohibit the use of ‘cruel acts’ in rodeos

Photo courtesy of Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal

On Tuesday, February 11 New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, held a press conference in support of her legislation (A.8554) that would prohibit the use of cruel acts in rodeos. According to the legislation, “cruel acts” include calf roping, and the use of electric prods, flanks or bucking straps and sharpened or fixed spurs.

According to the bill memo, “panicked calves are routinely injured or killed during these performances.”

“Rodeos are modern day gladiator games – bloodsport masquerading as entertainment,” said Rosenthal. At the conference, she brought to light some examples of what happens to these animals.

“Animals used in rodeos are forced to travel city to city to put on a show that revolves around humans terrorizing them until they act out of terror, pain and exhaustion,” said Rosenthal.

The legislation would prohibit animal abuse in the context of rodeos by stopping the use of traditional tools of cruelty or engaging in acts that rely on causing pain, terror or exhaustion to the animal.

Rosenthal noted that small rodeo events in New York would still be permitted to operate so long as they stopped using “traditional tools of cruelty” or engaging in acts that rely on causing “pain, terror or exhaustion to the animal.”

Backing Rosenthal at the conference were animal advocates from New Yorkers for Clean, Liveable Streets (NYCLASS), Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), Red Robin Song Animal Sanctuary, Horseracing Wrongs, Animal Cruelty Exposure Fund and others.

Peggy Larson, a large animal veterinarian and a former rodeo bareback bronc competitor herself, said the injuries sustained by animals abused in rodeos include broken bones, ruptured internal organs, massive internal hemorrhage, hemorrhage from torn muscles, dislocated joints, extensive bruising, torn ligaments, damaged tendons, hemorrhage, damage to the throat, and damage to the thyroid gland, and many of them die because of those injuries.

“Animals in rodeos suffer severe injuries and intense pain and it is inhumane to allow rodeos to continue,” Larson said.

Those at the news conference also called on Madison Square Garden to cancel a three-day rodeo event scheduled for this June, “Rodeo New York,” that MSG will be hosting. Rodeo has not been at MSG in more than 30 years. Rosenthal and the other advocates note that MSG receives a lifetime property tax abatement as well.

“It is shocking that MSG would host this brutality,” said Rosenthal. “It is deeply disturbing that a private company which receives a multi-million-dollar property tax abatement each year – $42 million last year alone – is hosting an event that violates the spirit of our state’s animal cruelty laws.”

The three-day rodeo would include bull riding, during which a person tries to ride a bucking bull by holding onto a rope that is tied tightly around the bull’s waist, as well as a saddle bronc event where riders are encouraged to wear spurs to irritate and injure the horses they are riding. Animal advocates say the cruelest event of the weekend is the tie-down calf roping where baby calves are “tortured” when cowboys chase them down, tackle them to the ground with a lasso tied tightly around their throats and then tie their legs together with another rope.

“If anyone did these things to a dog or cat, it would be considered a crime,” said the President of Animal Cruelty Exposure Fund, Nora Constance Marino. “What is done to baby cows, horses and bulls in rodeos is equally criminal.”

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is meant to regulate the welfare of the animals used in rodeos, however the association allows the use of electric prods and other tools to shock animals that are slow to come out of the gate.

“There has been a shift away from violent events in circuses and other commercial venues; apparently, MSG didn’t get the memo,” Rosenthal said.

If passed, the legislation would protect animals from suffering, death or serious injury for the sole purpose of entertainment and showmanship.

California, Rhode Island and Nevada have all passed laws regulating rodeo events.