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The PRCA: Too cowardly to debate

Since SHARK's inception, only once has anyone from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the world's largest rodeo association, agreed to a public debate with SHARK's President, Steve Hindi--and that was in 1997 for five minutes. (See that "debate" here.) Despite repeated and standing offers by SHARK to meet anywhere, anytime, no one from any rodeo association has had what it takes to walk all that tough talk, and candidly and openly discuss the issues of animals in rodeo. 

SHARK's most recent offer went out to PRCA Commissioner Troy Ellerman. Similar debate challenges have gone out to the two previous commissioners of the PRCA--with no response. SHARK is giving the PRCA an opportunity to blunt the public relations damage our efforts, especially our video documentation, are causing to the rodeo industry. However, we are not holding our breath in expectation that Troy Ellerman, anyone at the PRCA, or anyone in the rodeo world will "Cowboy Up."

The real reason rodeo is afraid to debate SHARK? They know their abuse is indefensible. 

January 23, 2007
Mr. Troy Ellerman, Commissioner
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
101 Pro Rodeo Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80919

Dear Commissioner Ellerman:

I am hoping you might be willing to help me with a problem. Virtually every day we receive emails, and sometimes phone calls and letters, from rodeo people challenging us about our work. Much of the communication from these people is threatening, obscene and anonymous, and some of it can be viewed on our RodeoCruelty.com web site. We don’t take that communication too seriously, but for those who are sincere, we would like to provide them with answers, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day to keep repeating the same answers for the same questions over and over again.

People claim that we don’t know what we are talking about, even though we almost certainly know more about rodeo humane rules than they do. They challenge us to attend a rodeo and see for ourselves how the animals are treated. Good grief – how do they think we end up with all the video footage and still pictures that document abuse and humane rules violations? These folks claim that we are not giving rodeo a fair shake, and that we have it all wrong.

Conversely, I am told that humane-minded people similarly contact the PRCA about concerns they have on issues. When this happens, they are often given to Cindy Schonholtz, the PRCA’s so-called “Humane Coordinator.” While this may seem like a logical thing to do based on Ms. Schonholtz’s title, the fact is that Ms. Schonholtz has absolutely no power or even a desire to enforce the PRCA’s humane rules. In fact, Ms. Schonholtz’s true focus appears to be aimed at covering up humane violations and violators, as evidenced by her continued refusal to release records of disciplinary actions or animal injuries/deaths. Also, I am unaware of any humane initiatives by Ms. Schonholtz within the PRCA or in any other area. In any case, humane-minded people contacting the PRCA rarely get their questions answered.

Troy, its seems to me that SHARK and the PRCA have a similar problem in that we just can’t respond to all of the people who have questions about our respective work. Fortunately, I think I just may have a solution to the problem – a debate. I’m not talking about a brief debate like the one held about ten years ago in Las Vegas on live television just before the National Finals Rodeo. That debate was between Dr. Doug Corey and me, and can also be viewed on SHARK’s RodeoCruelty.com site. I realize that you rodeo folks figured that Dr. Corey was in a good position to debate me because he was a veterinarian, but I think everyone can pretty much agree that he took a real beating. Furthermore, there was a difficult time constraint that everyone was working with, so maybe Dr. Corey just didn’t have adequate time to make his points. I know for certain I would have liked more time to make mine.

I think we should hold another debate – a nice long one – and maybe even more than one, until we get the issues out there in plain sight for everyone. I think the best people to be involved in the debate would be you, as head of the PRCA, the world’s largest rodeo association, and me, as head of SHARK, the number one organization in the world investigating and exposing rodeos.

There are a number of reasons that would seem to make this a contest weighted in your favor. You are a college graduate, while I never even attended college. You are a successful lawyer, trained in debate and winning arguments, while I am a mere working person. You are a professional rodeo cowboy; one might say that as PRCA commissioner you are the ultimate professional cowboy, while I am a mere humane volunteer.

In spite of these apparent disadvantages, I am willing to go forward, and for one reason. I think that if you debate me I will win, not because of my oratory skills, but because our investigations have yielded irrefutable evidence that neither you nor anyone else in the rodeo world can defend. If you choose not to debate me, it will be for the very same reason.

I am really tired of hearing about the PRCA’s humane rules when there is precious little evidence that these rules are enforced. I want a shot at outing these rules as wholly ineffective, like the rules requiring a veterinarian at every performance, when the penalty for not complying is far less than the cost of having a vet onsite. Another example that caught my attention was the 2006 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. As you know, stock contractor Chad Burch was caught using the electric prod repeatedly on horses. The November 18, 2006 edition of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reports that the fine for shocking animals in chutes is supposed to be $250 for the first offense, with fines for each subsequent violation doubling. However, the article states that Mr. Burch was fined $500. Troy, how can there be a $500 fine? If Mr. Burch was found to have shocked one animal that would be a $250, and if he shocked two animals, that would be a $750 fine. But Mr. Burch was charged $500??? Besides, since the rodeo judge estimated that Burch shocked about a third of his horses that means the fine should have been many thousands of dollars. A debate would give you a chance to explain this curious matter.

Also, you may remember that SHARK held a December 2004 press conference in which we released video footage of numerous PRCA stock contractors we had documented committing humane violations. Harry Vold was one of those stock contractors. Vold’s staff, including his own daughter Kirsten, were videotaped shocking dozens of animals daily at the American Royal rodeo in Kansas City, Missouri. Since the PRCA received a copy of our video footage, there should have been a fortune paid to the PRCA for humane violations. Nevertheless, Mr. Vold claims that he has never been fined.

Tell you what – if you choose to debate me, I will promise not to bring up the investigation the FBI is conducting over your alleged role in the leak of the BALCO grand jury transcripts. [Mr. Ellerman subsequently went to Federal prison for several years and turned in his lawyer license.] I won’t bring up the legal history of PRCA people like Mike Cervi or Greg Kesler or others (see www.CowboyCriminals.com for their issues). We’ll just stick to the subject of rodeo. If that isn’t enough of an inducement for your personal involvement, I will happily debate someone else that you appoint for the task, so long as that person speaks in the name of the PRCA. Come on, Troy, isn’t it time to finally “Cowboy Up?”

I suggest that the debate(s) be videotaped, and that each side gets a copy of what is videotaped. The people from both sides of the issue and the public at large can view it and decide for themselves. That seems as fair as anything can get.

I have written you before on various rodeo concerns and issues and have yet to receive even the courtesy of a reply. I hope this time will be different, and that you might respond. I realize that it is an embarrassment when SHARK documents explicit animal abuse and humane violations of PRCA rules that happen in plain view of PRCA judges. Nevertheless I would have hoped that the toughness that is boasted nonstop by the industry might persuade you to actually walk your tough talk. This is my hope, but I won’t hold my breath while waiting.

Please respond within fourteen days. Otherwise I’ll be left with the impression you just don’t have what it takes.

Sincerely,
Steve Hindi
President, SHARK