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Rodeo at County Fair may draw animal rights protest

August 1997

The Kendall County Record (Illinois)

By Joe Hendricksen

In an attempt to boost attendance at the Kendall County Fair, the Fair Association has decided to bring Big Hat Rodeo of Lebanon, Mo. to the fairgrounds Sunday, Aug. 3.

"Sunday has been a slow day in terms of people at the fair," said Mike Drendel, president of the Kendall County Fair Association. "The number one draw for people at county fairs throughout the state is the rodeo."

But the event may draw more than just fans as rodeos have become a prime target for animal rights activists who claim they are a form of animal cruelty.

Drendel, who says he is aware of the controversy with animal rights activists, promised that the Kendall County Fair Association went to great lengths to make sure the company they hired took proper care of the animals.

"Taking care of the animals was very important to the Fair Association," Drendel said. "The biggest complaint of animal rights activists regarding rodeos is the calf roping contest, and we decided our rodeo would have no part of that particular contest."

Drendel adds organizers of the fair welcome any individual or animal rights activist to examine the animals and the equipment used in the rodeo.

"They are a professional and sanctioned rodeo," Drendel confirmed. "We have talked with the rodeo people about the animals they use as well as the equipment to make sure they are all taken care of and acceptable. We would be more than happy to have anyone visit to see for themselves."

Drendel may have someone take him up on that offer. Although Steve Hindi, a devout animal rights activists from Plano and part of the Chicago Animal rights Coalition, says they don't say ahead of time where they will be, he maintained his group would be active at some time or another, this year or next.

"This is the rodeo season as they say," Hindi stated, "and putting an animal rights activist at a rodeo is like putting a kid in a candy store."

Hindi claims all rodeo abuse animals. I haven't seen one that hasn't," he says. But some, he says abuse animals more than others and he has the proof.

"We have plenty of footage to show," Hindi said. "We have some tapes of animals being kicked in the head and dirt thrown in the face."

Hindi says the biggest problem is the debate of whether the bucking strap, which goes around the animal's flank area, also goes around the animals genitals.

In any case, he says, if a flank strap were placed around a dog you would be charged with cruelty.

"This is why these animals buck," said Hindi about the use of the bucking strap. "If they didn't buck because of it, then don't use it. It rubs on these animals and it rubs them raw. Horses just don't buck uncontrollably for no reason."

While Hindi won't say whether the Chicago Animal Rights Coalition will be at the Kendall County Fair, he does say they will continue to state their opinion of the damage rodeos cause animals.

Hindi says he has a problem with pro-rodeo people who say there is a history behind the rodeo; that the rodeo is something that has been going on for years.

"I understand there is some historical significance in some of these activities," Hindi notes, "but they never did it in the style they do now. They didn't jerk-stop these animals. These other events, such as bull riding, have absolutely no historical significance; it's just a game."

Hindi says he applauds the Kendall County Fair for not allowing calf roping to take place, which he says is the harshest event on the animals, but that doesn't eliminate the damage.

"You can't do anything to clean up the rodeo," Hindi said. "What can you do to clean up the Mafia? We will continue to do what we have to, though, to let it be known what really goes on at these rodeos. We are like Pit Bulls, once we latch on we don't let go."

Kendall County Chief Deputy Terry Tichava says the Sheriff's Department has not talked directly with the Fair Board about the possibility of a protest at the fair, and says additional manpower has not been discussed. He does say the will take a look at the situation and see how to handle it.

"We haven't heard from any animal rights activists, but if they do show up, hopefully we can strike up some dialogue with them," Tichava said. "We can protect their right to assemble, but also try to not disrupt or disturb the fair as it is a family event."

Tichava said he doesn't believe there will be much of a problem or conflict at the fair.

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