Tuesday, February 15, 2005


In the United states alone, ranchers can legally access 260 million acres of public lands, most of which have been ruined by over 120 years of grazing. Ranching has the distasteful distinction of ruining more wildlife habitat and native vegetation than any other land use. It seems that wherever wild animals are abused - whether it be for sport or profit - nature is abused.

Ranchers live in a world of self-imposed violence against animals. American ranchers continually shoot, trap, poison or persecute the following wild animals: coyotes, prairie dogs, mountain lions, bobcats, golden eagles, bighorn sheep, bison, wild horses, burros, jackrabbits and even ravens. Most are killed simply for sport. And don't forget roping, dragging, branding and castrating helpless calves. It appears that animal cruelty is a preferred lifestyle for some people. Ranching people are hunters and like hunters they share a notion that animals must be "controlled," which is part of their addictive thinking process. So-called "wildlife management" and ranching share the same goal of using animals as resources that must be managed or controlled.

We've all heard the tired stories about coyotes killing livestock and prairie dogs invading ranches and how they must be "controlled." Every animal killer has used similar, worn-out rationales, resulting in untold misery for countless animals.

Ranchers and hunters underestimate the intelligence of people who are not animal killers. We know that ranchers and hunters kill animals for fun and they have disdain for animals they consider "vermin" which include prairie dogs, and they also hate "varmints" which include coyotes. I have also read that hunters and ranchers can and will shoot stray dogs and cats, which contradicts any fanciful notion of hunters respecting animals.

Many people, including myself, would sell the family ranch instead of killing innocent animals who have as much right to live as I do. Or, better yet, we'd choose not to live on a ranch in the first place. Perhaps we'd build a fence, but we definitelywould NOT shoot animals!

The well-known writer and environmentalist Edward Abbey could effortlessly summarize ranching abuses: "The rancher (with a few notable exceptions) is a man who strings wire all over the range, drills wells and bulldozes stockponds; drives off elk and antelope and bighorn sheep; poisons coyotes and prairie dogs; shoots eagles, bears and cougars on sight; supplants the native grasses with tumbleweed, snakeweed, povertyweed, cowshit, anthills, mud, dust and flies. And then leans back and grins at the TV cameras and talks about how much he loves the American West. Cowboys also are greatly overrated.

Do cowboys work hard? Sometimes. But most ranchers don't work very hard. They have a lot of leisure time for politics and bellyaching (which is why most state legislatures are occupied and dominated by cattlemen.) Anytime you go to a small Western town you'll find them at the nearest drugstore, sitting around all morning drinking coffee, talking about their tax breaks."

Edward Abbey continues: "All I want to do is get their cows off our property. I despise arrogance and brutality and bullies. So let me close with some nice remarks about cowboys and cattle ranchers.They are a mixed lot, like the rest of us. As individuals, they range from the bad to the ordinary to the good. Let those cowboys and ranchers find some harder way of making a living, like the restof us do. There's no good reason we should subsidize them forever. They've had their free ride. It's time they learned to support themselves."

Howard Lyman, the mad cowboy turned vegetarian, wrote: "At eight or nine I began milking cows and branding calves. At ten I learned how to castrate calves. Dick and I liked to grab a couple of twenty-two caliber rifles and shoot anything that moved, and a few things that didn't. We shot deer and elk, which we skinned and ate. We shot all kinds of birds: sparrows, crows, magpies, killdeer, curlews, partridge.

When we had an infestation of gophers, we shot a THOUSAND IN ONE DAY . . . After all the tons of herbicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizer I'd poured into it, the soil looked more like asbestos . . . The trees on and around the farm were dying . . . The birds were gone."

- By Scott Palczak

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Fortunately, that vile National Western Stockshow and Rodeo in Denver is gone, at least for another year. And, of course, the media stampeded us with coverage of this supposedly great event. Stock shows promote animals as commodities or "stock," while rodeos profit by abusing animals for "entertainment." Since rodeos are an outgrowth of ranching, they also exploit animals for the almighty dollar. Ranchers and would-be ranchers view animals mainly as resources - and vermin or varmints -and the rodeo appeals to this utilitarian, dominionistic view of animals.

Rodeo is a ritualized exaggeration of ranch life symbolizing the triumph of humans over nature and the conquest of animals. It supports the value of subjugating nature, and reenacts this "taming" process whereby the wild is brought under control. As a by-product of ranching, the rodeo showcases the spirit of aggressiveness and exploitative conquest. Rodeo fans frequent these lowbrow events because of the expectation of death, injury or trauma to animals and rodeo cowboys.

Angry bulls are a real crowd pleaser. Electric prods called "hotshots" are routinely used on the animals. Undercover videotapes have caught rodeo employees kicking bulls in the head, yanking their tails and overusing cattle prods for no intelligent reason. Make no mistake, livestock can and will be injured or killed because of command rodeo performances.

Professional rodeo has rules stating that veterinarians should be on call for injured animals, but these rules are barely enforced, and probably not enforced at all during amateur rodeos. The real problem is preventing these injuries in the first place, which their rules are unable to do. If an animal is severly injured during a rodeo performance, it will be euthanized or sent to slaughter - or should I imagine that rodeos provide a hospital for injured and crippled livestock!

Several millenia ago, bulls were worshipped and then sacrificed to appease gods. Today,the grand champion steer is an admired feature of the stock show and is subsequently slaughtered, reminiscent of the ancient Egyptians who would exalt their favorite bull in a ritual before sacrifing him. You may research this matter by reading Jeremy Rifkin's book "Beyond Beef." The ranching mentality has little to no appreciation for animals - unless the creatures are utilized or sacrificed in some way.

Rodeo people have a vested interest in keeping public attention away from animal injuries. Wounded or dead animals are simply dragged away and the show continues. Two horses were killed in 1999, while performing in the National Western Stockshow and Rodeo in Denver. One horse rammed a wall head on and the other was bucking so hard that it suffered a broken back. If that isn't animal cruelty, then what is ? I have, in my possession, the Denver Post article describing the depressing event. A paragraph from a letter in the Boulder Daily Camera reads:

"At this same event last year (Mexican Rodeo 2004) the audience witnessed one horse's leg being snapped by a flank strap as it came out of the bucking chute. The horse ran around the arena with one leg dangling until the staff could remove it and put it down. Many people in the audience came forward and complained to the National Western Stockshow board and were told the strap didn't cause the fatal injury. Many horse experts in attendance were basically told they didn't see what they saw." ( Boulder Daily Camera, January 13, 2005)

Calf-roping is an especially callous form of "entertainment," with fleeing calves lassoed, jerked backward, thrown to the ground and tied with a rope. Obviously, this is neither gentle nor humane treatment and it causes considerable suffering - and in some cases death - to the fear- stricken calves. Rodeos have their own impotent and weakly enforced rules regarding animal welfare; they are unable and unwilling to prevent animal injuries.

In an ideal world, there would be no stock shows, rodeos or animal abuse. Humans would live in harmony with nature instead of trying to subdue it. Central to the stockshow/rodeo mentality is the self-serving anthropocentric notion that animals exist only to serve humans, and who cares if the poor creatures are killed or punished in the process.

Rodoes glorify and sanction animal abuse as if it were family fun and a meaningful American tradition. It's my opinion that stock shows and rodeos are a breeding ground for the oppression and mistreatment of animals. Unfortunately, a certain percentage of people will always have a primal fascination with riding, roping, wrestling, chasing, and otherwise manhandling animals. If animal cruelty is disguised as "sport" or recreation, then it becomes more socially acceptable. After all, who doesn't want more recreation? By encouraging these atrocities, our society is still living in the nineteenth century.

- By Scott Palczak