Just what the fading jewel of the New Jersey seashore needs: a big dose of animal cruelty. Yes, the rodeo has come to Jersey.

At first, it’s a puzzling development. After all, New Jersey isn’t exactly known for its cowboys and ranches. Places like Alberta, Canada, at least have some sort of historical rationale for their own festivals of animal abuse. The new Atlantic City rodeo is — like most animal cruelty — a result of pure, unadulterated greed.

You see, it seems the casinos just aren’t doing so well. According to the AP, “revenue in the nation’s second-largest gambling market fell by 6.7 percent in March, the second straight month the decline was measured in single digits.” So, in a desperate money-grubbing venture, all the Atlantic City casinos colluded to launch the Atlantic City Boardwalk Rodeo.

The three-day rodeo started, appropriately enough, on April 1st — April Fool’s Day. It included such non-entertaining forms of entertainment as bareback horse riding, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling, and bull riding. About 50 tiny cattle, 30 bulls, and 40 horses were brought in to be exploited in the name of making a few bucks.

The event was operated by John Barnes of Barnes PRCA Rodeo. Befitting someone who makes his living through cruel animal spectacles, Barnes appears to have a bit of a cruel streak. The good people at SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) have been keeping an eye on Mr. Barnes, and have video of him repeatedly administering 5,000 volt electrical shocks to a caged bull to make the poor animal act wild and mean. And now he’s running the Atlantic City rodeo.

Barnes has high hopes for his latest venture: “This is going to become an annual event that people are going to make vacations for. It’s going to get to the point where people are going to have to buy tickets in advance because it will be sold out.”

Sadly, over 17,000 turned out to see animals wrestled, roped, slammed to the ground, and otherwise abused. The casino mavens are no doubt thrilled and are salivating at the thought of making even more money in the years to come. Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo T. Langford informed representatives from SHARK that he fully supported the rodeo and wanted it to come back next year. He had no interest in viewing footage of animal abuse at the rodeo.

It doesn’t have to be this way. While thousands of people apparently have no problem paying to see wannabe cowpokes manhandle animals, there are also thousands of us who see rodeos for what they are: exercises in cruelty.

We must take a stand and tell Mayor Langford, members of the Atlantic City Visitors Authority, and the rodeo’s corporate sponsors that the rodeo has no place in Atlantic City, and as tourists, we would prefer to spend our dollars in cities that don’t endorse animal cruelty.

Photo Credit: SHARK