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September 12, 2017 > For a more humane Alameda County

For a more humane Alameda County

Submitted By Eric Mills, Community

America seems on the brink of a sea-change insofar as our attitudes toward the use of animals in entertainment are concerned, be it in circuses, marine parks or rodeos. In recent months, in the wake of the documentary, ÔBlackfish,Õ SeaWorld dropped its orca shows, and outlawed captive breeding of these highly-social animals. Los Angeles and Oakland passed bans on the use of bullhooks on captive elephants, as did several other cities around the country.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has gone belly-up, thanks in part to years of protests. And earlier this year New York City banned the use of wild animals in traveling circuses and carnivals. To date, some 30 countries around the world have done likewise, including Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Greece, The Netherlands, even IranÑcan the U.S. be far behind?

Closer to home, back in 1993, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance banning two particularly cruel rodeo events: horse tripping and steer tailing, the first such law in the nation. In 1994, California outlawed horse tripping state-wide, another first. Other states quickly followed. ThatÕs progress!

Now itÕs time for the Board of Supervisors to amend the current county ordinance, and add several other cruel (and non-sanctioned) events to the prohibited list, amongst them:

Wild-Cow Milking. This brutal event involves two would-be cowboys roping and manhandling a lactating cow to a standstill, milking a few drops into a bottle, then racing to the finish line. (The cows are beef cattle, not dairy, and not used to being handled.) The cows are already highly stressed due to being separated from their babies. One of these poor cows jumped the fence at the 2014 Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Castro Valley, breaking her neck; she had to be euthanized, leaving an orphaned calf. This is also a standard event at the annual Livermore Rodeo.

ChildrenÕs mutton-busting event. Dangerous for sheep and children alike. The sheep are terrified, the children often in tears. There are reports of kids with broken arms and knocked-out teeth, as well as injured sheep. New Zealand has banned this event at the recommendation of the NZ Veterinary Association, which deemed the sheep not built to carry the weight. Surely American sheep are no different. Mutton-busting has been featured at the Rowell Ranch, the Livermore Rodeo, and the Alameda County Fair. It needs to go.

Animal Ôscrambles.Õ Calves, pigs and chickens are common victims. Hordes of screaming children are loosed on the frightened animals, often babies, putting all at risk. A statement from world-renowned animal behaviorist Dr. Temple Grandin bears repeating: ÒIn assessing criteria for suffering, psychological stressÑwhich is fear stressÑshould be considered as important as suffering induced by pain.Ó

It is important to note that rodeo animals are prey animals. As such, they fear for their very lives when roped, ridden, wrestled, chased, dragged or otherwise roughly handled.

These brutal events send a terrible message to impressionable young children about the proper treatment of animals. California Education Code 60042 states that humane education and kindness to animals be taught in the public schools, K-12. These events are a blatant violation of that mandate. Where are the local child protection agencies? Or the responsible parents?

The Hayward Area Recreation & Park District (HARD) has received more than 400 letters from local humane organizations and concerned individuals demanding that these events be banned. Former County Supervisor Gail Steele has testified in favor of the bans, as have several local preachers, all to no avail. An on-line petition posted by ANIMAL PLACE has garnered more than 120,000 signatures to date. For most of the animals, rodeo is merely a detour en route to the slaughterhouse. They (and we) deserve better.

ThereÕs clearly a need for a county-wide ordinance to stop this cruelty. You can write to Supervisor Wilma Chan, president, and members (Bob Haggerty, Richard Valle, Nate Miley, Keith Carson) of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, 1221 Oak Street, Oakland, CA 94612; tel. (510) 272-3812. Ask that these humane issues be put on the agenda as soon as possible.

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