Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rodeos – A Celebration of Humanity’s Ruthlessness?

Photo credit: Calgary Sun

Two recent news stories affirm the callousness and cruelty that is humankind. 

Both involve the exploitation, maiming and killing of animals by their owners, and sadly, both incidents are perfectly legal, considered part of our cultural heritage and supported by most people in our society.

The first story is about the practice of tripping horses for human entertainment at rodeos south of the border.

A video by SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) was posted online depicting horses at the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo in Oregon being lassoed and then tripped to show off the cowboys’ roping skills. Here’s the link:

Did you watch the video? If not, please watch it right now:

Did it sicken you? Yet people in attendance are heard cheering and applauding. I don’t know how anyone could think this is fun to watch, but apparently lots of people – normal people by society’s standards – do. And it’s not just the Americans that are suffering from a major brain malfunction.

Lots of Canadians also find it entertaining to watch animals being mistreated and forced to do things against their will as long as it’s exciting (for the spectators anyways) or as long as it’s good for the economy.   

The second story involves the accidental yet inevitable killing of horses for the Calgary Stampede, now celebrating its 100th year of animal abuse and exploitation.

As the Vancouver Sun reported, three horses were killed last Thursday during one of the chuckwagon races. According to the Vancouver Humane Society, over 50 horses have died in chuckwagon events since 1986. Here’s that story:

What really kills me about these stories is that the owners, the staff, the care providers, and of course the organizers, are always really, really, really saddened by the death, or deaths, of these animals, yet year after year after year they keep forcing these animals to risk their lives and year after year after year they keep getting killed.

According to Doug Fraser, a spokesperson for the Calgary Stampede,

"Nobody wants to see this happen. But I think the emotion really showed with [driver] Chad Harden. The driver is devastated and even our chief veterinarian ... felt emotional about this. We've had absolutely phenomenal success this year, up until tonight."

Well Doug, I’m really, really, really sorry that the deaths of these three animals (and I’m sure there will be more) got in the way of your Stampede’s success. I really, really, really feel your pain. That’s sarcasm by the way.

But you know what folks, if I was responsible for an animal’s well-being, and there was a chance that making him do stupid tricks, or racing him was going to put his life in danger, I wouldn’t make him do it!

And what’s worse is that people by the hundreds and thousands, and in the case of the Calgary Stampede an average of 100,000 each day (and the Calgary Stampede runs for 10 days!) go and pay money to watch this crap. 

So are all cowboys – on both sides of the border - cruel and insensitive monsters, or just western cowboys (along with all those cowboy wannabes in attendance)? Does stupidity breed stupidity, and callousness breed callousness, or is it nurtured?

Or perhaps it’s in our DNA to be cruel; a part of what makes Homo sapiens the most powerful - and destructive - force on the planet. Are these events really about celebrating our ruthlessness as a species?

All I know is that as long as we view other animals as products, disposable commodities and slaves, and as long as we continue to be indifferent to their suffering, this type of abuse will continue.

We may be human, but until we change our worldview, we will never be truly kind.