Bronc rideIn the American mythos, it’s a given that cowboys love horses. In American reality, this love doesn’t prevent cowboys from giving a horse an occasional shock from an electric prod.

The good people at SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) recently released video footage of horses being shocked at something called the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming. As described by the Casper Times-Tribune, the “video shows a man with a handheld prod shocking the necks of three horses as their rides began.” The “rides” being referred to are bareback bronco rides, in which a cowboy tries to remain on a bucking horse for as long as possible.

Electric prods are used when a horse doesn’t want to leave the chute and enter the arena. According to CNFR spokeswoman Susan Kanode, “The use of prods is acceptable where the animal’s safety is a concern as in the case of a horse stalling in the bucking chute….” She also claims that “Safety and the welfare of animal and human athletes is of the highest concern to the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.”

Sorry, but I don’t buy that. If the “welfare of animals” was such a high concern, then the poor creatures wouldn’t be forced to participate in rodeos. And while we’re at it, if a cowboy suddenly had cold feet and decided he didn’t feel like riding that day, would Kanode support using a prod on him?

A decade into the 21st century, I can’t help but wonder why rodeos still exist at all. PETA accurately describes them as “manipulative displays of human domination over animals, thinly disguised as entertainment.” The skills being tested mostly involve roping, wrestling, or otherwise tormenting animals, many of whom would be essentially tame and docile if not goaded into acting aggressively. Countless animals end up injured or killed. No wonder the Humane Society of the United States officially “opposes rodeos as they are commonly organized, since they typically cause torment and stress to animals; expose them to pain, injury, or even death; and encourage an insensitivity to and acceptance of the inhumane treatment of animals in the name of sport.”

There are no doubt plenty of people who will defend rodeos based on the logical fallacy of tradition. There always are, and always have been, plenty of people who will defend injustice based on tradition. Proponents of bullfights, dogfights, cockfights, pigeon shoots, dolphin slaughter, and so on all claim to be upholding custom and tradition.

They just happen to be upholding customs and traditions, such as rodeos, that are best relegated to the dustbin of history.

Photo Credit: Public Domain