Here’s a meme floating around the Internet featuring the image of a cowboy roping a terrified calf. It says, “Rodeos: Where grown men beat up baby animals.” Sadly, grown gay men will again be beating up baby animals at the annual Sunshine Stampede Rodeo in Davie, April 4-6.
Rodeos are Western-themed circuses that are frightening for animals. They don’t reflect actual ranch work where real cowboys protect livestock. Instead, performers entertain crowds by attempting to ride horses that are bucking because some part of their body is being twisted painfully, and competing with other performers to see who can chase, body slam and hogtie baby cows the fastest, without regard for their safety, or lives.
These are activities that would land the entertainers in jail were they to do them to their own pets. That alone should discourage anyone from attending rodeos, however promoters have their excuses and their rationalizations, their assurances that it’s all good, natural and, even, God-approved.
The Sunshine Stampede’s website contains its own animal welfare message, written by the International Gay Rodeo Association. The piece, which is breathtakingly disingenuous, is meant to ease the consciences of attendees. It begins with this vague message.
“Gay rodeos operate under greatly modified rules of straight rodeo. Although consisting of traditional rodeo events such as bull riding and bronc riding, gay rodeo activities purposefully have been tailored to provide the animal and human participants with the safest environment possible, while still demonstrating the skill of the contestant.”
The safest environment possible doesn’t mean a safe environment. It means the animals don’t suffer as badly.
Later in the piece the IGRA make absurd charges about animal rights advocates. It suggests we oppose keeping animals as pets, make exaggerated accusations about their gentler rodeo and think animals are equal to and superior to humans. All of this is nonsense, though the silliest bit is this:
“These groups infringe upon the differences of the lesbian and gay community by attempting to persuade others to conform to their beliefs, giving the impression that the gay rodeo community is anti-animal. This is patently false, as the sponsoring organizations of the celebrations wish to demonstrate a positive force in the community while proving the diversity of the community.” What does that mean?
When determining whether something — gay/straight rodeo, circus, zoo — is abusive, the only question should be if the animal wants to be there. No calf wants to be body slammed and roped until she’s old enough for slaughter. No horse wants to be bucked. No goat wants clowns forcing men’s underwear on him while others laugh at his confusion and distress.
Enjoy the Western myth if it appeals to you. Dress up in (pleather) chaps or as a saloon girl. Line dance. Perform George Jones/Tanya Tucker karaoke. Ride a mechanical bull. Ride a cowboy. Watch Falcon’s “To The Last Man Part 1,” then part 2. Have all the consenting adult cowboy fun you want but, please, rope and hogtie your lover, not a frightened calf.
— Chris Murphy