By Rob Sherman
Chicago Now Blog
June 19, 2009

Dave, a commenter to my story At Rodeos, Animals Haven't Got a Prayer, asked why you never see exposure of rodeo cruelty on television or in a major newspaper.

There are several reasons why.

First and foremost is the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules. Rodeos buy lots of newspaper ads in the days before an event to promote the event to attract a crowd. There is a "professional courtesy" that says you don't mess with your advertisers or they won't be your advertisers any more.

Steve HindiIndeed, that's precisely why rodeos buy lots of newspaper and TV ads: Insurance against getting exposed for engaging in animal abuse for huge profits.

It's no different than why so many large corporations, such as Comcast, Commonwealth Edison, and unions, such as teachers unions and firefighter unions, "sponsor" incumbent legislators in Springfield (the capitol of Illinois for those of you who wrote in from elsewhere) with campaign contributions literally in the tens of thousands of dollars. They know that legislators have the power to end unfair policies and practices which unjustly enrich these groups and cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year. They are simply, and literally, buying protection for their unfair practices. Non-incumbents, independent candidates and Green Party candidates (who don't take corporate contributions), don't have a chance to compete against them.

Getting back to rodeo, in many cases, the newspapers, themselves, are one of the sponsors of the local rodeo. Newspapers would make themselves look really stupid if they criticize as immoral an event that they are enabling through sponsorship. As an example, the biggest rodeo in the Chicago area is the annual Wauconda rodeo. The Daily Herald, the third largest newspaper in Illinois after the Tribune and Sun-Times, is one of the major sponsors of the Wauconda Rodeo. Would you expect the Daily Herald, whose motto is "To fear God, tell the truth and make money," to do a big-time, Rob Sherman / Godless in Chicago-style expose' of rodeo any time soon?

In addition, rodeos are often the vehicle used by major local charitable organizations as a fund-raiser event. The Wauconda Chamber of Commerce states, on page 11 of their June newsletter, that "The annual rodeo is the Chamber's largest fundraiser." If any newspaper were to criticize the Wauconda Rodeo as cruel and unnecessary, the charitable organization would complain: "Hey! Why are trying to mess up our fund-raiser? Don't you support what we do for the community?"

Finally, most people, particularly most people in the rodeo audience and, quite frankly, most journalists, simply don't realize that rodeo is animal abuse for entertainment and profit. It never occurs to most people that what they regard as an entertaining and fun animal performance is actually animals squirming and writhing in agony from abuse and torture that has just occurred but been cleverly concealed from the audience, and that when the animals are racing across the arena, they actually are simply trying to run away to escape further mistreatment.

Why do you suppose rodeo has gone to banning video and still cameras from their events? With today's modern high-resolution digital cameras and high-powered zoom lenses in the hands of ordinary consumers, people have been discovering, in slow-motion instant replay and high-speed stop-action, that the handlers are, in fact, torturing the animals to get them to "perform."

That's why we need people like Steve Hindi and SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness) to expose what's going on, for the eventual protection of animals, and to inform journalists like me so that I can inform you.

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