Activist: Rodeo animals still mistreated

May 30, 2002

The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)


Despite letters this year from the Illinois Department of Agriculture to county fairs and stock contractors concerning humane treatment of animals at rodeos, animal activist Steve Hindi said rodeo animals continue to be mistreated.

Hindi, president of SHARK (Showing Animals Respect & Kindness), called a Statehouse news conference this week to show a video of recent Illinois High School Association rodeos held in Mount Vernon and Charleston, during which cattle prods and tail-twisting were used.

Hindi met with agriculture department officials last summer after the National High School Finals Rodeo was held in Springfield, and the department reiterated its policies concerning rodeos.

That includes requiring water and proper shelter; prohibiting the use of electric shock on animals in chutes (though it can be used as an animal is leaving the chute if the animal is "stalled"); prohibiting tail-twisting, pulling and raking; and requiring veterinary care when an animal needs it.

Hindi said he has evidence of three rodeo companies misusing electric prods and practicing tail-twisting, raking and pulling. And he said he found injured animals that were not given care or removed from competition.

"Based on our latest investigations, it is clear that rodeo animals are still unprotected, in spite of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act," Hindi said.

Hindi also hopes to stop "calf dressing" at the upcoming Illinois High School Rodeo Finals in Altamont. Calf dressing is not a competition but an event meant for fun where different teams "dress" a calf in clothes.

"Calf dressing can be some of the worst animal abuse," said Hindi.

Hindi delivered a copy of the video he made of the alleged abuses to agriculture department officials Tuesday.

John Herath, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, said, "Our practice is to first educate, then give warnings. If the warnings are unheeded, we'll work with the state's attorney to prosecute. We investigate each and every complaint that comes into the department."

Hindi said such offenses usually are considered misdemeanors.

"Our position at this point is to go out and document the offenses," he said. "We've been watching rodeos for almost a decade and communicating with the ag department. We're specifically asking the ag department to not allow calf dressing at the state rodeo finals."