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Poison drummer aghast at rodeo appearance

By Bill Scanlon, Rocky Mountain News
Originally published July 2, 2008

A glam-metal rocker is bucking the Greeley Stampede, vowing to use the band's gig there Saturday to educate fans about "rodeo cruelty."

"I had no idea that this gig included a rodeo," Poison drummer Rikki Rockett, an animal-rights crusader for 16 years, said in a statement.

The 86-year-old Greeley tradition bills itself as the "World's Largest 4th of July Rodeo."

"I am blown away that I missed the description of this show on our touring schedule," said the 46-year-old Rockett, whose real name is Richard Ream.

"I have a huge problem with animal cruelty at rodeos," said the drummer, who leads an annual crusade against "puppy mill atrocities" in his native Pennsylvania, according to the statement.

The Greeley Stampede's Web site has an Animal Welfare page, stating: "Like most people, cowboys believe animals should be treated humanely and with dignity. Professional Rodeo values its animals, and staunchly protects them with rules specifically designed to prevent cruelty or even unintentional mistreatment."

It stressed that PRCA's rules safeguard livestock, including disqualification and fines for anyone who abuses an animal along with veterinary inspection and proper care requirements for all livestock.

Rockett slammed rodeo operators use of "Tools of Torment" — including electronic prods, buck straps and spurs — to rile bulls and broncos in competitions "partly scored on how wild an animal acts."

The Stampede's Web site said spurs must be dulled and locked spur "rowels" — the pointy rotating wheels — may only be used on bareback horses or saddle broncs. It states that 1993 survey of 28 PRCA rodeos indicated that "the injury rate for animals was so low as to be statistically negligible. Of 33,991 animal exposures, just 16 were injured, according to data compiled by on-site veterinarians."

Stampede spokesman Justin Watada responsed to Rockett's comments.

"The Greeley Stampede does not condone the mistreatment of animals in the production of the annual rodeo," said Watada in an e-mail this afternoon to the Rocky. "The Greeley Stampede extends a personal invitation to Mr. Rockett to meet with the Rodeo Committee and Stock Contractor regarding any concerns."

Despite the controversy, Poison's Greeley show will go on.

"I have decided to keep my commitment to the fans and educate them about rodeo cruelty at the same time," Rockett said, adding he'll use the concert as a platform to push for improving animal treatment at the professional rodeo called "the heart of the Greeley Stampede," on the event's Web site.

He asked rodeo organizers to respect his "freedom of speech. I want people who oppose rodeos on the basis of cruelty to be able to distribute information at the show."

Rockett said fellow bandmates agree this will be Poison's "last gig" at a rodeo.

The metal rockers aren't the only entertainers to bolt rodeo-based shows.

Matchbox Twenty apologized to fans for pulling out of a July 18 show at Cheyenne Frontier Days, urging people to "please understand that it would be impossible for us to put ourselves in the position of making money from what we believe to be the mistreatment of animals."

In 2006, Carrie Underwood pulled the plug on her Frontier Days performance.

The Wyoming rodeo, dubbed the "Daddy of 'Em All," has a statement on its Web site saying: "Cheyenne Frontier Days advocates animal care that recognizes the well-being of animals, including those used and cared for by humans. We believe the right to own and use animals carries an obligation to provide proper care for all animals included in our celebration."

"Cheyenne Frontier Days does not tolerate, condone, or permit actions that abuse animals. We recognize that animals, as well as humans, may be injured in these events. Any injured animal is accorded immediate veterinary medical attention, and is isolated from further harm," the rodeo site states.