Two recent events, both of which are under the radar of most industry participants, represent classic examples of how the animal activist community generates support for its agenda—and more importantly, how a divided, disinterested citizenry often plays right into their hands.
Let’s be clear about one thing: Whenever any halfway organized animal welfare group raises concerns about alleged abuse, the ultimate goal is to eliminate whatever practice or industry sector is under attack. The movement’s end point isn’t reform, it’s elimination.
These examples demonstrate how they move toward that goal.
First, activists pick a target that doesn’t enjoy a lot of support from the public. For example, how many people attend rodeos on an annual basis? And how many of the spectators who do purchase tickets are diehard fans who live for the sport? Not many, which makes campaigns against the alleged abuse of calves, bulls and horses a perfect target for the activists.
At the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton, Alberta, which concluded last Saturday, the animal rights group Voice for Animals Humane Society took direct aim at calf roping, which they managed to portray to the media as “a controversial staple at rodeos across the country.”
Executive Director Tove Reece told the Global News service that getting rid of tie-down roping would be a good place to start “reforming” rodeos.
“You’ve got a tiny little calf running at full speed being lassoed by some big cowboy on a horse,” Reece said. “We consider it the worst event at the rodeo.”
Ralph Murray, CFR Animal Welfare and Safety Officer, offered a weak response that tie-down roping is “part of cowboy life,” with competitors being mostly ranchers who do it routinely out on rangeland.
That reply doesn’t exactly crush the opposition, and rodeo protesters over the last several years have forced changes in how events like the chuckwagon races at Canada’s famed Calgary Stampede are conducted. And this is guaranteed: The protests will continue, with more and greater demands for “safety” leading to what activists ultimately want: A drop-off in attendance significant enough to eventually force the cancellation of rodeos altogether.
On the other hand, what would be the impact of similar protests against the use of live animals as college football mascots? Can you imagine a campaign aimed at banning the appearance of horses, such as USC’s mounted Trojan warrior or other university mascots on horseback, such as Florida State, Texas Tech or Texas A&M? Or how about a protest aimed at banning Oklahoma University’s Sooner Schooner chuckwagon that races across the field at home games?