As the Gay rodeo pulls into town this weekend, there is a lot of excitement; protestors, however, will be descending on Davie, FL, and the Sunshine Stampede Rodeo to protest what they claim events’ cruel and unjust treatment of animals.
Christopher Murphy, 44, and his elderly terrier mix Merlin will be driving four hours from Orlando to Davie to join his South Florida Animal Rights Friends in protesting the Sunshine Stampede Rodeo. He told Agenda, “I disapprove of rodeos because they include activities that terrorize animals: chasing and hog-tying terrified calves, strapping genital-twisting belts on horses so they buck, agitating bulls so they also buck, chasing a goat around and putting Calvin Klein jockey shorts on him”.
This is the 6th Annual Sunshine Stampede Rodeo in Florida and every year the event is protested against. The organizers have an animal welfare page on their site. Murphy, who has been a vegetarian for fifteen years and a vegan for four, however, finds this laughable, saying “They make all kinds or excuses and rationalizations; the most embarrassing is ‘most of the exaggerated accusations of abuse made by animal rights groups toward gay rodeo are based on erroneous information drawn mainly from straight, backwoods rodeo.’ Basically they’re saying, ‘Because we’re a gay rodeo we’re nice, not like those terrible straight rodeos’”.
Christopher, who began a small pet rescue in December, 2004, called Superior Mutts Doggie Rescue, Inc., says, “There’s not a gay man or woman in this country who hasn’t been tormented and abused mentally and physically for not conforming to traditional gender roles. Why, then, would any of us torment and abuse calves, goats, horses and bulls, and for entertainment?”
The New York City native, who has lived in Orlando for twenty-one years, still sees potential in a Gay Rodeo that did not ‘abuse’ animals;
“If Sunshine Spurs limited their rodeo to adult activities that didn’t harm or terrorize animals I would be driving four hours to attend it as a spectator. I’m all about hot stud cowboys and frontier drag queens … I just can’t bear watching animals suffer and watching gay men and women who have suffered enjoying it.”
Jim Mitchell the Rodeo Director of the Florida Gay Rodeo Association is quick to come to the defence of the rodeo. He says, “‘First off our very strict rule book of 25 years, we clearly state electric pokes and prods are not used, they are however in a straight rodeo that’s different.” He went on to explain “they are not needed. And we don’t use them as much for the protection of our animals as for ourselves. Animals get very testy when zapped and that is incredibly dangerous. We don’t allow it period. “
He told the Agenda, “Over half our extremely strict rule book is dedicated to preventing animal cruelty. Any contestant found to be abusing animals will be instantly disqualified.”
Nathan Runkle is the executive director & founder of Mercy for Animals. He is openly gay and himself has been the victim of a hate crime, in a statement to the Agenda, he said,
“Like the oppression of gay people, the rodeo is an unacceptable cruelty against the vulnerable that our community should work to end. “He went on to clarify that, “These animals are not ‘athletes,’ they are forced to perform against their will and they are slaughtered when they are no longer useful.“
Holly Wilson, M.D., who will also be protesting at the rodeo in full costume, told Agenda that,
“The rodeo is regarded by some as a ‘professional sport’. However, in professional sports, both sides are aware of the objectives, and are willing participants. Animals are forced into the ring and are (literally) fighting for their lives. Broken bones and ruptured internal organs are common injuries. Furthermore, the animals are left to languish without any painkillers or euthanasia. Many of these animals will go on to become food, and administering medication is considered to ‘taint’ the meat.”
Mitchell clearly states that this is not the case “If they are unwell or unable to perform they are sold immediately and never used. In addition we have a vet on site in case of any animal emergencies.”
Wilson continued, “The PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) will argue that there are ‘humane laws’ in effect at their events. However, if you are to read them carefully, the language is vague, and indeed only serves as an attempt to satisfy public outcry of the treatment of these unwilling participants. ”
When asked about broken bones and genital ties Jim Mitchell is clear, “I have never seen a tail broken in 6 years. I was chairman of the Animal Issues committee for the International Gay Rodeo Association. At end of each Rodeo we do review and checklist, anytime an injury occurs we document the cause to see what we can change in the future. Last year two injuries were reported, they were minor and not caused by humans. Genitalia twisting doesn’t happen because most our animals have been castrated. The bull that hasn’t wears a flank that goes around his stomach and waist NOT his genitals”
The consensus from protestors is, as Holly puts it, that “Individuals of the gay community have all had their own personal experiences regarding public humiliation, oppression, and even physical violence. Torturing animals is in direct contrast to everything we stand for, and have overcome. Supporting the rodeo is a step in the wrong direction.”
Mitchell says “ I have no problems with protestors my issue is they are basing the information they are protesting about on what they have seen at straight rodeos. We are very different and as we are a not for profit organisation that is independent we have the luxury of changing the rules to what we feel is most humane for the animals.”
He concluded “I would like to show them [protestors] how we take care of the animals, the chutes are in excellent condition, and the animals are well fed. I get very passionate when people make statements they don’t have back up for mainly because of what happens at straight rodeos.
Also this is one of the few events that brings the whole community in Fort Lauderdale together. Many other gay events are too adult themed. We at the Rodeo are transparent about the high level of care we have for our animals. Ultimately protestors will be against the rodeo, because it involves animals, but we treat our animals right.”