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On July 19, 2019, investigators with UARC attended the annual Days of ’47 rodeo to observe and document how the horses, bulls, steers, and calves were treated during the event. Like all rodeos, it was an appalling spectacle of abuse masquerading as wholesome entertainment.

In order to get the animals to buck, rodeos tie a painful flanking strap around the mid-section of the bulls and horses used in the riding events.

Rodeo apologists like to claim that the horses used for bronc riding and the bulls used for bull riding are wild, untamed animals who buck naturally. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These animals are domesticated farm animals who are driven into a frenzy in order to get them to buck for the entertainment of the crowd.

Bulls continue to buck even after the rider has been thrown off their back. Bucking typically persists until the painful flanking strap is loosened and removed.

UARC eyewitnesses watched as several rodeo cowboys gathered around these animals while they were still confined to a tiny chute, and tormented them so that when the chute opened they would frantically burst out of the chute. The animals were struck, had their tails pulled, and on some occasions, were even shocked with an electric prod. The animals all had flanking straps strapped tightly around their sensitive mid-section to get them to buck.

Rodeo cowboys typically crowd around the animals moments before ride begins in order to pull their flanking straps extremely tight, shock them with prods, and pull on their tails, so that they burst quickly from their chute when opened.

During the team roping event, two rodeos work together to tie separate ropes around the horns and hind legs of a steer, in a maneuver that would obviously cause significant pain and discomfort for the animal who is being violently pulled in opposing directions.

A steer used in the team roping event at the Days of ’47 Rodeo is violently yanked in opposing directions by two cowboys on horses.
Another victim of “team roping” at the Days of ’47 rodeo.

During another event, known as steer wrestling or “bulldogging,” a rider jumps off his horse and grabs a steer by the horns, painfully twisting his neck, in order to bring the running steer to an abrupt halt and crashing to the ground.

A cowboy at the Days of ’47 Rodeo painfully twists the neck of a steer in order to bring the animal to the ground.

Perhaps the most appalling spectacle of all at rodeos is calf-roping, which the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) now euphemistically calls “tie down roping.” During this event, baby animals run away from a cowboy on a horse, who then ties a lariat around their neck to bring them to a sudden halt, before picking them up, slamming them to the ground, and tieing their feet. UARC eyewitnesses observed several occasions where the force of the lariat was so strong that it lifted all four legs of the calf off the ground, slamming them violently into the dirt.

A tormented and terrified calf at the Days of ’47 Rodeo bursts from his chute, only to be abruptly halted by the sudden force of a rope around his neck.
The force of this action often causes the calves to become airborne before slamming into the dirt.
A cowboy at the Days of ’47 Rodeo body-slams a young calf prior to tying his or her feet.

There is little doubt that if someone performed this same action on a dog, they would be prosecuted for cruelty-to-animals. Unfortunately, there is a so “cowboy immunity” provision in Utah’s cruelty-to-animals statute that exempts animals used in the rodeo from from the state cruelty law. If this event were actually humane, why would such an exemption be necessary?1See Utah Code § 76-9-301(1)(b)(ii)(B), where the very definition of “animal” excludes any animal “that is owned, kept, or used for rodeo purposes.”

The U.S. Border Patrol apparently provides official sponsorship of bull-riding participants at the Days of ’47 Rodeo. It’s little wonder why the Border Patrol would find a kinship to a spectacle of cruelty.

Fortunately, the tide appears to be turning against rodeos. UARC has protested the Days of ’47 Rodeo for decades, and we have watched the event move into smaller and smaller venues, with diminishing attendees. Outside the event, on July 20, 2019, UARC supporters also held a demonstration against the event. During our demonstration, we were able to talk to several families and convince some people to make other plans rather than purchasing a ticket and furthering this cruel spectacle. Minds are changing, and society is coming to a consensus that entertainment is not a valid excuse to hurt an animal.

Thank you to all the compassionate individuals who joined us for our protest against the Days of ’47 Rodeo. UARC intends to followup on our demonstration by urging city and county officials to pass an ordinance prohibiting cruel rodeo events, including bull-riding, bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, and calf roping. If you’d like to support our efforts, please consider becoming a member, signing up for our email list, and attending future protests and demonstrations.

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