Animal rights group descends upon Cheyenne

SHARK has invited the public as well as CFD and city officials to attend its meeting, set for 10 a.m. at the Laramie County Library.

April 15, 2008
By Baylie Davis
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

CHEYENNE -- The group that apparently convinced Matchbox Twenty to cancel its appearance at this summer's Cheyenne Frontier Days will be in town on Wednesday.

Members will hold an open press conference at the Laramie County Library.

Members of SHARK, SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness, have invited the public as well as CFD and city officials to attend.

The meeting is set for 10 a.m.-noon in the Willow Room at the library's Central Branch at 2200 Pioneer Ave.

SHARK officials wrote in a release that CFD officials "have expressed bewilderment" over Matchbox Twenty's cancellation due to what the band referred to as "mistreatment of animals."

But, the group adds, the reasons for that action are easily found in graphic video documentation from last year's CFD rodeo.

City and CFD officials can come to the press conference to review this video documentation, the group adds.

The organization said it also will provide a list of recommendations to CFD officials.

"SHARK is ready and willing to work with all concerned officials to make (the) CFD rodeo a more humane event," the release says.

Members also say they will treat officials with "all due respect and consideration."

SHARK President Steve Hindi said he does not necessarily want to see the rodeo completely ended.

He added that some aspects, like barrel racing, are simply human-animal partnerships and tests of skill. But events like steer and calf roping are indefensible, he added.

He said the world is starting to see SHARK's point of view, and eventually the only people who will show up for CFD will be people from Cheyenne and Wyoming.

Hindi added that Cheyenne likes the attention it gets by bringing people from all over the nation.

"But you can be the center of attention in a great way, like Martin Luther King, or you can be the center of attention like al Qaeda," he said.

He later added that he wasn't comparing Wyoming to al Qaeda.

Hindi said he hopes CFD will enforce its own rules but added, "Some of the rules have to change. I would consider any step forward, a step forward."

Cheyenne Mayor Jack Spiker said notice of the conference, which was announced Monday, did not give him enough time to rearrange his schedule in order to attend.

He said even if he could go, he wouldn't necessarily defend CFD, although in his experience the rodeo always has made efforts to be humane.

He added that he's interested in seeing the recommendations from SHARK.

"If they're well-thought-out criticisms, I think we should take a look at those," he said.

In an e-mail to SHARK, Spiker said, "It is my fervent hope that your press conference will be constructive and not be a forum to criticize Cheyenne Frontier Days for actions of third parties. ... I am decidedly against placing blame where it does not belong merely to point fingers."

Spiker apparently was referring to contractors for CFD who have been accused of such behavior as using tasers on bucking horses.

Charlie West, CFD's general chairman, said someone from his organization will be at the conference.

He added that he is skeptical about the motives of SHARK scheduling the meeting during the middle of the day on a weekday. Most CFD volunteers have jobs and can't leave for two hours.

"That might have been done purposely," he said.

But he said an arguing match "is the last thing we want to do."

"This is their forum ... their show, their request, their time frame," he said.

He added that he hopes for an open conversation about the two sides of the issue.

As for the future of CFD, he said, "I think our lifestyle is being threatened right now, but we're not just going to give up. We're not going to fold on something like this."

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