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Ah, rodeo. The sport of the American West.

A couple weeks ago, I received a press release from a California organization called In Defense of Animals.

The organization insists the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association put an end to the CNFR in Wyoming, and is also calling on ESPN to stop airing the event, "owing to extreme animal cruelty."

I have to admit, I have always enjoyed watching rodeo.

When the PBR came to town a couple months ago, my husband and I sat front-row whooping and hollering as bulls launched cowboys in the air. So I probably wasn't the best journalist to send the release to (they couldn't have known that, though, as they're literally 1,000 miles away).

I grew up in Wyoming and went to college in Montana where the culture of rodeo is baked into the dust we breathe every time the wind blows.

The release calls out the Cowboy State, saying, "The CNFR has been putting on annual shows that involve animal abuse for more than 20 years in Casper, Wyoming."

There's also a picture labeled: "A child ties a tethered and distressed goat at a goat tying rodeo event."

Photo from Unparalleled Suffering
Photo from Unparalleled Suffering

Disclaimer: I should also note that I once won a giant, shiny belt buckle in that event when I was a kid (not to be confused with the alleged-victim in this case).

The organization is drawing specific attention to goat-tying: "an abusive and little-known 'sport' that children and college-age students participate in."

They argue that the sport teaches animal abuse and desensitizes young people to suffering. They acknowledge that goat tying isn't part of the professional adult rodeo world, but posit that some rodeos hold a goat-tying event for younger contestants before the adult rodeo commences.

Groups like PETA and others have poked holes in rodeo for a long time, and many have even taken Rodeo Associations to court, mostly on the basis that they are contradictory to the purposes of the Animal Welfare Act, which scrutinizes the way animals are treated.

Quoted in a BBC article, the director of industry outreach for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association said that today's regulations include having a veterinarian on site at all events and removing animals from competition that are not healthy or injured.

Healthy, strong animals are requisite for the specatator sport. Nobody wants to see a frail, sickly animal get tossed around.

There's also an argument to be made that rodeo gives people a greater appreciation for animals.

It's a tough sport, but is it abuse?

What's your two cents on the matter?

College National Finals Rodeo-Tuesday

College National Finals Rodeo-Tuesday

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Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo-Saturday

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