Gay Rodeos Sexy Cowboys or Animal Abuse?

Posted on 11 April 2011

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.”

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5 Responses to “Gay Rodeos Sexy Cowboys or Animal Abuse?”

  1. Michael Essi says:

    Objectively, the argument against rodeos wins! The animals that are forced to participate in these events are denied what is natural to them and forced into situations that they would avoid at all costs. The animals involved, as Holly Wilson stated, are not willing participant. Many of the activities involved with the rodeo entail the animal running for its life, petrified, while spectators complicity add to the fear by cheering and applauding.

    Jim Mitchell’s argument that the chutes are in excellent condition and that the animals are well fed is appalling. Prisons are also in great condition and the inmates are well fed, but those conditions are not conducive to a life well lived. Have these animals committed a crime by being different?

    Rodeos are, plain and simply, a public display of humans trying to convince the world that they are superior to the animals involved. To the evolved individual, it is an archaic and small minded display of decriminalized animal abuse.

    To the rhetoric that rodeos are still allowed because no animal welfare laws are broken, one needs to take a closer look at the record of enforcing animal welfare laws. Crimes against animals are often times not prosecuted. Animal welfare laws do not include all animals and the laws are different for different species. These laws are reflections of discrimination based upon being different. Does this sound familiar?

    Rodeos continue because they have traditionally been acceptable forms of entertainment. In recent years we have evolved quite rapidly. We have expanded our ideas of mercy and compassion. We have accepted the idea that we are not the world, but a part of the world. We are aware that our planet is not just ours, but theirs as well. Don’t you think it is time we take a look at all of the things we have traditionally accepted and review them from a fresh set of eyes? We are responsible for leading the way for change.

    Imagine the leaps and bounds we would make if we set examples of kindness and compassion in all areas of our lives. As homosexuals, we know what it is liked to be viewed as less than and persecuted for our differences. Together, and with the help of other kind and compassionate individuals, we have made great strides in our cause. Don’t you think it is time to pay it forward and extend our helping hand to those who do not have a voice? They (animals) are just like us, only different.

    I, for one, will never patronize a rodeo event or any other event that involves animals used for entertainment purposes.

  2. veganelder says:

    Thanks for your coverage of the objections to exploiting animals.

  3. Chris Murphy says:

    It was chilling standing with protesters being ridiculed by gay rodeo event-goers as they stood in line to pay to watch weaker creatures brutalized, as if they hadn’t been ridiculed or brutalized themselves. Suddenly in the majority, they had the power, you know? I hope as they continue to whine about how they can’t marry or adopt in Florida these men and women consider the calf they enjoyed watching get roughed up so badly she later died, in agony, of internal injuries. She’ll be shaking her head from calf Heaven, and might even forgive them.

  4. Paul says:

    Thank you for publishing the article on the rodeo.It was good to see both sides represented and not just rodeo hype.It might be a day to “dress” up and live out some fantasy,but it’s no fantasy for the animals.

  5. Shelley says:

    Horrible! Definitely animal abuse. I would hope that a group of people who want to be treated with respect would show the same for innocent animals and not torture and injure them for sick “entertainment.”

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