The annual Industry Hills Charity Pro Rodeo, which organizers say has financially supported community causes for nearly four decades, will begin Saturday, to the continued dismay of local animal activists who deem rodeos an outdated form of animal cruelty that should be banned.
The two-day rodeo will be at the Industry Hills Expo Center. The event also features freestyle motocross and a concert from country-Western star John King after Saturday’s competition.
Past rodeos have featured many of the top performers who compete for purse money and to qualify for the annual National Pro Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas.
The annual charity rodeo began in 1986, and organizers say all proceeds from the event go to organizations and nonprofit organizations that provide resources or programs to disadvantaged youth throughout the San Gabriel Valley community.
Tim Seal, co-chair of the rodeo, said the event has contributed more than $2.6 million to worthy community causes over its 36-year history.
But animal rights activists say the event is needlessly and self-evidently cruel, citing events such as calf roping, bull riding and bronc riding, which they say terrorize animals, cause them pain, injuries and occasionally even death.
“We believe the rodeo is not a sport, but rather an archaic cruel show business that inherently abuses animals while it masquerades as entertainment,” according to a statement provided to City News Service by the group Last Chance for Animals.
“The rodeo industry typically leans into the cultural and historical background argument, but this fight is not about culture. This is about animal abuse,” the group added.
Officials with the Industry Hills Charity Pro Rodeo did not respond to a request for comment about that characterization, but the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which sanctions the event, says on its website that it “works to ensure that every event it sanctions is managed with fairness and competence and that the livestock used is healthy and cared for to the highest standards.”
Rodeos use tools such as spurs, straps and electric prods to make horses and bulls buck. Defenders of the practice say the animals are already inclined to buck and the tools just give them a cue. But animal advocates say horses and bulls do not buck naturally, and that “bucking straps” are tied so tightly around the flanks of the animals, they are forced to buck in an attempt to relieve the discomfort.
The Industry Hills event site lists bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding, and “other roping/riding events” as being on the schedule. According to the website Rodeos USA, those other events will include steer wrestling, team roping and tie down roping.
Calf roping — in which baby cows are forcibly tackled to the ground and hog-tied — is an event many activists consider exceptionally cruel.
“Anyone with a heart knows it’s wrong to clothesline a baby animal, body slam it to the ground, tie its legs so it can’t move, and drag it by the neck,” according to Steve Hindi, founder and president of the national group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.
“If this were done to a puppy or kitten, the offender would understandably be charged with a crime, and likely be jailed. In rodeos, however, it’s called calf roping, and supporters claim it’s a sport.”
Ashley Byrne, director of outreach and communications with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told CNS that rodeos “have no redeeming elements.”
“They’re literally events where people go to watch animals being abused. That’s all that goes on there,” she said, dismissing the arguments of some rodeo defenders who say the events are an important part of the culture and history of the western United States.
“Tradition is never excuse for cruelty, and as our ethics evolve we leave cruel traditions behind,” Byrne said.
Last Chance for Animals, OC Animal Save and Animal Defenders International are sponsoring protests at this weekend’s rodeo.
LCA is also circulating a petition to ban rodeos outright. The petition — which can be found at bit.ly/2NwvWPd — has more than 24,400 signatures toward its goal of 25,000.
A small number of municipalities have taken steps to ban rodeos in recent years. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban electric prods, shocking devices and other implements from rodeos in 2021, although the proposed ordinance has not been finalized.
The motion, introduced by Councilman Bob Blumenfield, directed the city attorney to prepare an ordinance to prohibit the following devices from Los Angeles rodeos and rodeo-related events:
— electric prods;
— shocking devices;
— flank or bucking straps;
— wire tiedowns;
— sharpened or fixed spurs; and
“Rodeos often use a number of inhumane implements … to encourage aggressive behavior in animals to produce an entertainment product. Animals suffer significant injuries during common rodeo events such as bull and bronco riding, steer wrestling and calf roping,” the motion stated.
“Many animals are put down as a result of injuries sustained during these events. … It is time for our city to act in the interest of animal welfare on this issue as it has in the past for other issues.”
The city attorney finalized the language in December 2021, but it still must go before the council’s Personnel, Audits and Animal Welfare committee before returning for a final City Council vote and then approval by the mayor.
The committee has not scheduled the proposed ordinance for a vote, but a representative for Councilman Paul Koretz, who chairs the committee, told CNS it was expected sometime in November.
If the ban does pass, it would mean the end of annual appearances in the city by the Professional Bull Riders tour, which holds its events at Crypto.com Arena in February.
Sean Gleason, CEO and commissioner of the PBR, has called the proposed ordinance “unnecessary legislation” that will cancel events that he says benefit the local community.
“We are keeping a close eye on this legislation. If it passes, we will not have events in L.A.,” Gleason told CNS. He added that PBR has many rules in place to ensure its animals are treated well, and offered to “invite L.A. City Council members to come to Crypto.com Center on (Feb. 22) to learn about the animal athletes who are the real rock stars of the sport, get the best care and live a great, long life — four to five times longer than animals not fortunate enough to compete.”
Pasadena banned the display of wild or exotic animals on public property in 2015, a law that applied to circuses and rodeos. Irvine banned rodeos in 2011, and Laguna Woods and Chino Hills have also banned them.
Other cities and counties — including Alameda County in Northern California and Clark County in Nevada — have passed more narrow prohibitions on specific rodeo activities without banning the events all together.
Rodeos are banned in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and Vancouver, Canada banned them in 2006.
Byrne said the ordinance is “the least that the L.A. council could do. All of these tools are used to inflict pain in animals. … Rodeos should not be going on in 2022,” she added. “The idea of letting these animals be tormented in front of a crowd of rowdy, jeering people … it’s just indefensible.”