Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A PETA Moment

Long ago, in a land far away called New Jersey, there was a weekly rodeo held at a place ubiquitously called "Cowtown", just southeast of Gibbsboro. Every year at the opening rodeo, the local PETA organization would show up to protest the rodeo as cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.

Being a farm girl from Kansas and having quite a bit of experience with the rodeo, I knew that these animals were probably better cared for than most of the PETA people's own pets. I also knew that the rowels on the cowboys' spurs were squared off, that cinches tied to the rear barrel of bucking horses and bulls were not used to "pinch parts", were not tied any tighter than the cinch on a saddle and that roping rules were specifically designed to prevent damage to the livestock since they were not only valuable assetts to any rodeo company, but usually belonged to animal lovers who considered it there responsibility to take care of these animals.

Most livestock used in rodeos were eventually bred to create more rodeo livestock and turned out to pasture to live very comfortable lives post rodeo career which is a lot more than can be said for the cowboys who dared to rope or ride them. Not to say that there weren't a few disreputable livestock companies around, but these usually supplied unsanctioned events and were deeply frowned on by most rodeo promoters since bad stock didn't perform well and bad looking cattle gave them a bad name. I recall that the rodeo in NJ had cancelled a contract with a livestock owner because it became known that the animals were not treated well. That was just bad for business all the way around.

Every year we ignored the PETA protestors. Of course, PETA wasn't the only interested folks who came down to the rodeo and didn't know anything about it. Many "city folks" from Philadelphia, Wilmington and other small and large urban places in the area would come down in their best "dude" out fits or just plain everyday wear (like Levis and loafers without socks) to take in this strange phenomenom. This rodeo was famous enough on the east coast that it would routinely get bus tours stopping by bringing tourists from Asia and Europe who wanted to experience "real America" or as close as their fantastical minds could get to the "wild west". As a regular afficianado, attendee and general hobnobber with the cowboys who passed through this rarified atmosphere, I and my friends found ourselves unofficial "information guides" since there was always one or two (or twenty) newbies sitting nearby exclaiming over each event.

One particular year, a friend of ours had recently received his PRCA bullfighter's card and was going to "clown" at his first professional rodeo right there at Cowtown. He was actually in the Navy and had been stationed there while his assigned carrier was in drydock for repairs. We had adopted him as our "brother" from Tennessee. To celebrate his official acceptance into this elite group of crazy bastards who wore face paint and baggy pants while confronting a pissed of 1500 lb slab of muscle and bones, his parents came to see him perform. They were extremely nice people whom I had met several times both down in Tennessee and on their visits to Philly to see their son.

I'm quite certain the PETA folks would have been really appalled to find out that our friend's dad raised a few cattle on his spread down in Tennessee for the explicit purpose of butchering them and having fresh meat. One of my memories of visiting them was being offered "Hamburger from Pork" or "steak from Chop" (two calves they had raised up and had been grazing in the pasture the last time I had visited; no effect on me, but it did turn our city friends off a bit).

On top of that, our friends dad was the spokesman for the PRCA circuit in Tennessee.

On this particular evening of PETA protesting, the news organizations were out in force. If I remember correctly, drive by shootings were down and Nicky Scarfo was in prison so there wasn't a lot to report that summer. The rodeo promoter had met our friend's dad much earlier in the day and, seeing that the press was getting an earful from PETA without any opposite views from the rodeo crowd, he asked our friend's dad to act as the unofficial spokesman for the rodeo. He agreed and we followed him out to stand nearby in case things got ugly. PETA had been in town that year throwing blood on people wearing fur coats and generally destroying furrier property along with a few other ignominious actions.

Most of the PETA crowd were across the street on a public easement, away from the rodeo. They were marching around with signs about animal cruelty. The one I remember the most clearly was the protestor dressed in a cow costume with some rather pornographic utters waggling around carrying an incredibly uninspired sign that said, "Make Milk Not Rodeo." This is where you should laugh since most bovines used in rodeos are bulls and steers, cattle of the male persuasion, which I do not recommend attempting to milk. Unless you count the occassional "wild cow milking contest" which I believe would meet their standards.

Another protester was giving an interview to the local TV news. He seemed like your typical urbanite. One of the cowboys with us walked over and told the assistant standing near the cameraman that a rodeo spokesman was prepared to give an interview. Shortly after, the camera crew and reporter came over to our side of the road and began a brief interview with our friend's dad. He was explaining the care and treatment of rodeo animals when the yuppy spokesman for PETA came over and jumped into the interview accusing our spokesman of being a liar and a hypocrit. After a few brief moments of the reporter trying to get control of the situation and our friend's dad reminding the gentleman that he did not interfere in his interview and being continously shouted down, our spokesman tapped the cameraman on the shoulder and pointed down at the PETA guy's feet.

The cameraman tilted the camera down and both the reporter and the PETA guy were momentarily thrown off pace, causing a loll in the shouting.

PETA Guy, "What?"

Our Guy, "Your boots." At which point, the reporter was looking down, too.

PETA Guy defensive now, "What about them?" The boots were the urban cowboy wannabe black and white fur side out boots that were useless accept to look good and cost money.

Our Guy, "Well, I couldn't help but notice they're cow hide. Did you eat the meat from the cow before you had those boots made?"

PETA Guy was insulted by such a thought, "I did not! I'm a vegan! I don't eat meat!"

Our Guy, "So, what you're saying is that some cow was killed senselessly just to make you those boots. Unless you think that cow died of old age somewhere before they took his hide?"

PETA GUY, "I bought these boots before I joined PETA!"

Our Guy, "Really? How about that belt? Looks like genuine leather to me. And your friends over there look like they have leather purses, belts and shoes as well. Just where do you all think that leather comes from?"

The TV Cameraman had panned over to the crowd on the other side of the street with his powerful camera spotlight shining on the PETA Hypocrits. The PETA Guy seemed momentarily speechless so our guy went on to explain briefly the PRCA (Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association) rules on treatment of livestock and their involvement in the ASPCA and other humane societies. Ending briefly with an invite to come out and see what it was all about and learn about the "cowboy way of life".

We walked back into the rodeo to see the nights entertainment as the cameraman and reporter broke for the night. I honestly don't know if it made the news or how it was presented. However, about a quarter of the way through the rodeo, another friend came up where we were sitting and said that the protesters were gone.

The only thing left was a pair of black and white cow hide boots with a black leather belt at the curb.

"I didn't mean to make the guy go shoeless," our friend's dad said, a little sheepish now that the war of words had been over for awhile.

"Don't worry, sir," I replied, "I'm sure he has two or three other pair of cow hide shoes in his closet to replace them."


Gadfly said...

Oh that's just beautiful.

Pebble said...

Oh that was rich...lol

Tom said...

You just can't make this stuff up!

April said...

Let me preface this by noting that I am a vegetarian, and have been for about 25 years. This is my personal choice and philosophy, it has some inconsistencies, and I do not require nor encourage others to share it.

Now, the "meat" of the matter:

Last year, PETA had a billboard advertisement here in Columbus, OH, with a woeful-looking child on it, and it said: "Feeding your kids meat is child abuse."

It just about made me sick, and I'm sorry I didn't do a little guerilla art on it on a dark night. I promise, if I see another, I will.

PETA and its ilk forget that vegetarianism is a luxury, not a necessity. When human beings on this planet are free and have some sense of self-actualization, then I might be more concerned about the animals. Until then, I guess I'll keep on "abusing" my kids by letting them eat what they want.

Paul said...

I hate to repeat a worn out comment but I will, either PETA has been operating below the radar in the Gulf Coast or their interest in humane treatment and the rescuing of animals from starvation in that region does not exist. Even though it can be argued that it is Mother Nature dealing the cruel blow, instead of man, a helping hand to the SPCA wouldn't have hurt.

riceburner147 said...

I would join PETA, but I dont wanna wear plastic shoes :)

Anonymous said...

I would just like to add that as a rodeo competitor and a cattle rancher, my animals are of upmost importance and withouth them I would be no where. I treat my animals as friends and family and in all honesty my rodeo horses do what they do and love it. I am gald that there are people out there willing to make a stand to protect rodeo and all its associations.