- How to find rodeos:
You can monitor the schedules of a number of rodeo associations by going to the following rodeo websites: prorodeo.com (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), iprarodeo.com (International Pro Rodeo Association), nhsra.com (National High School Rodeo Association), collegerodeo.com (National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association), and pbrnow.com (Professional Bullriders Association).
You can also call SHARK for help in locating rodeos come to your area.
- Bring lots of extra tapes and battery power.
Lots of filming means lots of tapes and battery power is needed. Bring at least twice as much of both as you think you will possibly need, and make certain your batteries are fully charged before the rodeo.
- Blend in.
Wear cowboy hat and attire if you have it. If not, just wear casual clothing that will allow you to be as inconspicuous as possible in the crowd. Remember, people attending county fair rodeos are usually not well dressed.
- Take someone with you.
Company is important for many reasons: First, you will blend in better. Just as with people going to restaurants and movie theaters, rodeo goers rarely go alone. Secondly, itís wise to have one person be the lookout, while the other films.
This is very important! Rodeo thugs are cowards, and they may try to take a cheap shot at you, and then may even turn around and try to accuse you of doing it to them. Multiple animal protectors can keep an eye on each other and gives you some protection from rodeo thugs!
If you bring children with you, keep them very close. At a high school rodeo in 2002 in Illinois, a man (the step-father of a contestant) repeatedly bumped an 11-year-old girl who was filming. The following week, the same person attacked a SHARK investigator, and then claimed the investigator attacked him!
Women can often bring a camera in your purse, although rodeo thugs are now sometimes checking purses. If you are approached Ė whether it is as you are going into the rodeo, or when you are in the stands Ė remember that by law they canít touch your purse. You hold it open and they can only look inside. They have no right to take your property.
- Get a rodeo program.
If there is a rodeo program available, get it and keep it. The program contains very valuable information about the sponsors, rodeo organizing committee, and stock contractor.
If there is a Friends of Rodeo booth, pick up a complimentary copy of their publication. It often provides a wealth of information, as well as amusement at the incredible stupidity of the rodeo crowd. Know your enemy!
- Be in the right place to get the right shot:
Once you get into the stands, look to see where the holding chutes are. Find a place to sit where you can get a good view of the chutes and the participantsí activities.
Usually, the horses and bulls are on one side of the arena and the calves and steers are on the other. Being higher up than the chutes can help a lot. Sometimes a rear view works if you are higher than the chute and have a clear line of sight.
Itís usually best to sit at somewhat of an angle to the center of the chutes rather than directly across. This position will give you a clearer shot of what the participants are doing than if youíre filming straight on. Avoid filming the bucking chutes from the side, as this will cut off your view of prods and other torments.
The timed event chute is often purposely lined with banners and/or rodeo thugs to prevent people from seeing what is going on. Try to find an angle for the timed event chute. It could be from the front, side or rear.
Once the rodeo starts, itís not uncommon to move Ė even a few times Ė in order to get the best place to accomplish your task.
- Don't jump the gun.
Keep the camera in its hiding place until after the actual rodeo events start. At that point, the attention of the rodeo fans around you will be focused more on whatís going on in the arena, and hopefully less on you. Your companion(s) should watch for people who are there to watch for video cameras.
- Hold still!
Above all, your footage must be as steady as possible. Vital cruelty documentation can be rendered useless if the video camera is jerking around. A very helpful tool for steady footage is a "steady shot" feature (also known as image stabilization) to be found on most good video cameras today. Optical image stabilization is better than digital image stabilization.
- Be patient:
Those who view your film will need more than a couple seconds to witness what is going on. If you are filming something important (the use of electric shock, tail twisting, pulling or raking, animals being kicked or beaten, etc.), keep the camera rolling, and on that important scene.
- Know where the action is.
Keep a special watch toward the rear half of an animal being prepared in a bucking chute. This is often (but not always) where the animals are shocked. In some states, laws ban the use of electric shock to make the animals perform, so itís important to get that evidence. Keep the camera on the chute for a few moments after the animal exits so you can get good, clear footage of the guy doing the shocking.
During the timed events (calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping, steer roping), keep the camera on the back end of the chute in order to capture incidents of tail twisting, raking and pulling.
Do not always follow bulls or horses out of the bucking chutes. Keep your camera on the chute for a moment in case a prod or other device was used to torment a victim.
- Frame your shot properly.
Unless you have a prod or other torment device in sight, have your video camera framed on entire chute when an animal is being prepared. This will capture everything that is going on.
- Use your zoom wisely.
A zoom lens is a vital part of your investigation, but it must be used properly. Zoom in when you see cruelty in a chute. Zoom out somewhat when animals are bucking, as it is easier to follow the action, and if there is an animal injury you will have a better chance of documenting it. Whether zoom in or out, try to do so smoothly.
- Pick the right bucking chute.
In the timed events (calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping, steer roping), there is only one chute, so you know where the victim is coming from in those events. In the bucking events (horses, bulls) however, there are multiple chutes, and the animals are not necessarily released in chute order. You must have your camera on the correct chute to get your shot.
One way to tell which chute will be opened next is to watch the guy in the arena standing in front of the chutes who is holding a rope. He will attach the rope to the gate where the next animal will be exiting. He uses the rope to pull open the gate, so he can stay away from the animal as it exits.
Another way to know which chute is next is to listen to the announcer, who will usually announce it.
- No unnecessary chatter.
Itís important that you and your partner not say anything that will lead others to believe you are not enjoying the rodeo, or that you are animal protectors. If you are discovered, you will likely be asked to leave. Great opportunities have been lost by waggin' tails. Loose lips sink ships Ė and rodeo investigations. Be inconspicuous!
- Keep the camera running as much as possible.
That's why we advised earlier that you bring lots of extra battery power and tapes. When things happen, they happen fast. If your camera is not on, you will miss most or all of what happens.
- Never give up your videocamera!!!
If you are discovered and challenged, rodeo thugs may demand your camera. It belongs to you, and they have no right to it. In that case, call immediately for the police Ė loudly if necessary!
In some cases, police hired as security may be the ones who demand your camera. They have no more right to it than the rodeo thugs do. In that case, demand to speak to a police supervisor who is not hired by the rodeo people. DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR CAMERA Ė IT BELONGS TO YOU!!! If you do give it up, your footage will almost certainly be made to "disappear."
In fact, you should record your conversation with the rodeo thugs, and also if you are having problems, with the police. If they demand you turn your camera off, tell them you are recording because you want a record of everything that is said or done for possible future legal action.
- Once you have filmed rodeo animal abuse:
Get in touch with your local television, newspaper and radio media. SHARK may be able to help you with media contacts, and can help you to prepare your footage based on what you filmed. SHARK would also very much appreciate any footage that you wish to send us for use in our work. You can send tapes, DVDs, or CDs to: SHARK, P.O. Box 28, Geneva, IL, 60134.
We have saved some of our best secrets for those who work closely with SHARK. If you are serious about getting the goods on rodeo animal abuse, please call us for additional information.