Law may dampen 'cruelty' protests

Animal rights groups say measure too broad

Dec. 08, 2006 

The Las Vegas Review-Journal


Animal rights groups are expressing concern about a new federal law that broadens penalties against protesters who use aggressive tactics trying to expose cruelty to animals.

Troy Ellerman, commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, supports the new measure and a citizen's right to protest provided it does not go too far.

Mr. Ellerman is hopeful that the new law might stop the damaging videos that expose rodeos as cruel and deadly for animals. It won't.

Mr. Ellerman is hopeful that the new law might stop the damaging videos that expose rodeos as cruel and deadly for animals. It won't.

The law broadens the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act by expanding protections for companies or individuals tied to businesses that use animals.

For instance, activists who picket the offices or homes of third-party investors, bankers or insurance underwriters associated with animal research might be subject to prosecution, according to Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. "The legislation expands the definition of economic damage to include loss of property, the costs incurred because of a lost experiment or lost profits," Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said during House debate on Nov. 13.

"It also includes a definition of the term 'economic disruption' to mean losses or increased costs resulting from threats, acts of violence, property damage, trespass, harassment, or intimidation."

Sensenbrenner said the law would not target a "lawful boycott."

Some activists said the law is too broad, and could chill efforts to expose mistreatment of animals used in research, and in performing acts like the circus or the rodeo.

"We're concerned particularly about boycotts of companies,'' said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States.

"These are mainstream tactics not meant to fall under this bill," Markarian said.

Ellerman heads the 8,000-member PRCA that sanctions the ongoing, 10-day National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"Everybody ought to have the right to protest. I don't begrudge those who protest our sport. This is America," Ellerman said this week.

"I understand there are those who disagree with rodeo and who believe we harm animals. We don't."

Mr. Ellerman's statement is a lie, and he knows it. Animals are regularly harmed in rodeos, including a horse that was killed at the very rodeo Mr. Ellerman was attending at the time this article was printed. Because of the numbers of animals injured and killed by rodeos, animal injury and death reports are not made public. In the case of the horse that was killed at this televised rodeo, the injury was edited out of the performance, as are all animal injuries, and the clothes-lining of baby calves and other obvious cruelties.

In recent years, an Illinois group called Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, targeted rodeo's major national sponsors such as Pace Foods, a subsidiary of Campbell Soup Co., for sponsoring "cruel rodeos that abuse, injure and kill animals," the group claims.

Steve Hindi, a former hunter who founded SHARK, has a flatbed truck with big-screen televisions that play videos showing alleged animal abuse at rodeos. He has driven the truck on the Strip and around the Thomas & Mack Center during the NFR.

Campbell Soup responded by withdrawing its Pace sponsorship of the PRCA this year.

"The message came down (from the Campbell's board) that they didn't want to be part of rodeo," Ellerman said. "We have a lot of sponsors who have been great. They've all been targeted (by protesters), but they've been strong-willed and they understand our sport. They know our rules and how we enforce them."

Mr. Ellerman's claim about rodeo "sponsors who have been great" include Dodge Trucks, Coca-Cola, Wrangler, Cingular Wireless and the US Army. The reason they are "great" sponsors for rodeo is that they are completely unethical and don't care at all about animal cruelty, injuries or deaths, or the fact that rodeo humane rules are not enforced, and are nothing more than a public relations ploy.

Hindi said the organization plans to launch a boycott against Cingular Wireless, a new corporate sponsor for the PRCA.

Review-Journal reporter Jeff Wolf contributed to this story.

The "contribution" of Review-Journal reporter Jeff Wolf to this story may explain why, in spite of an extensive conversation between SHARK president and reporter Tina Reed, not a single quote from Hindi appears in the article. In the conversation with reporter Reed, Steve Hindi stated that SHARK has no concern about the new federal law, and that SHARK does not engage and advises others against engaging in "threats, acts of violence, property damage, trespass, harassment, or intimidation." In fact, it is SHARK's opposition, including rodeo people, who perpetrate those acts and more against SHARK investigators. Click here to see another piece of work from Jeff Wolf, who SHARK considers to be nothing more than a lackey for the Rodeo Mafia.

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