Professional cowboys from Canada and the United States will slap on their spurs to compete in the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo this evening – despite the best efforts of the Berkeley City Council.
On Jan. 22, the council unanimously approved a proposal from the Citizens Humane Commission, which put the city on record as opposing the inclusion of the rodeo as part of an Olympics Arts Festival.
The city clerk’s office sent a letter to Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, on Jan. 28.
“We believe the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo scheduled for Feb. 9 through Feb. 11 is not only an unappealing event, but one fraught with opportunity for animal abuses,” it read.
“The Berkeley City Council asks that you do not include rodeos, which involve the abuse of unwilling animal participants, as part of the Winter Olympics in keeping with the true spirit of the Olympics.”
Cindy Schonholtz, animal welfare coordinator for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, said on Friday that she had not heard about the city’s position.
“I find it interesting that they would address those types of issues without contacting us,” she said.
Schonholtz also said that the PRCA requires that veterinarians be present at all rodeo events, and that animals are rarely hurt seriously.
“The people that want to get rid of rodeos are those that believe that animals have rights, and we don’t have the right to use them,” she said. “The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association believes that we do have the right to use animals, as long as we provide proper care and treatment.”
The Olympic Command Performance Rodeo will run through Monday. The events will include bull riding, steer wrestling and calf roping.
It is the latter which particularly irks Councilmember Dona Spring, who serves as liaison between the council and the Citizens Humane Commission.
“You can’t tell me that calves roped at high speeds don’t suffer from bruising and skin lacerations around their neck,” she said.
Spring said that she would have preferred the Olympics not to have allowed their name to be used by organizers of the rodeo, as it gave the event a legitimacy it did not deserve.
“The public is unaware of how cruel these rodeos are to animals,” she said. “It’s certainly a bad example to set for the children of America.”
George Roffman, director and founder of the Oakland-based Black Cowboys Association, said that he did not believe that cruelty to animals occurred often in rodeos.
“I’ve never seen abuse of animals in the rodeo,” he said. “I hope no one practices any such thing.”
Other Olympic Arts Festival events include a performace by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a showing of “E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial.”
Rodeos have been held in connection with the Olympics once before – at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
Contact reporter Hank Sims at email@example.com.