December 13, 2007

Eventually all Americans will be able to do is ingest pharmaceuticals, pretend to kill people on video games, or watch overpaid black Americans ensnared in the neo-enslaved, stylized violence displays of professional sports. And watch foreigners die on tv as independently targeted advanced munitions blow shit up.

But traditional rodeo, forget it.

More on the Omaha movement to kill the rodeo

Calf roping is a traditional American rodeo event in which a cowboy lassos a running calf around the neck, pulls it down and then ties three of the animal's legs together as quickly as possible.

Is one inherently more dangerous than the other when it comes to the safety and welfare of the animals involved?

No, say some cowboys — known as charros — who participate in the Mexican rodeos called charreadas.

"Of course there isn't a difference," said Armando Pliego, an Omaha charro who addressed the City Council Tuesday dressed in his rodeo gear: leather chaps, an ornate button-down shirt, boots and a colorful gold necktie.

Some local animal experts don't agree.

At a public hearing on a proposed city ordinance that would ban two charreada events, Humane Society officials and a local veterinarian told the council that the Mexican events are more painful and dangerous to the animals than American rodeo events. The Humane Society does not oppose American rodeos.

The Nebraska Humane Society is asking city leaders and state lawmakers to expressly prohibit both steer tailing and an event known as horse tripping, in which a charro ropes the front or back feet of a running horse, causing it to fall.

Pliego is the treasurer of Charros La Amistad, an Omaha-based rodeo club that has performed in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, putting on about four or five events a year. He estimates that there are about 200 charros in Nebraska, with about 20 of them in Omaha.

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A horse struggles after his front legs are roped during a charreadas, or Mexican-style rodeo, earlier this year in Mexico City. Horse tripping is a traditional event in such competitions.
Mark Langan, a Humane Society vice president, said Mexican-style rodeos are becoming more popular in the United States.

Veterinarian Steve White, who said he attended a charreada near Elkhorn recently, told the council that horse tripping can cause rope burns, abrasions, dislocations, torn tendons and ligaments, and broken legs. Steer tailing can injure the steers when they are slammed into the ground, White said. The chance for injuries is greater than with American rodeos, he said.

"Tradition should never take precedence over the welfare of animals," he said.

Scott McClure, an associate professor of equine surgery at Iowa State University, said in a telephone interview that he has seen charreadas. He would not say whether he believes Mexican-style rodeo is harder on animals than a traditional American rodeo.

"In horse tripping, to say they likely break legs is probably an overexaggeration," McClure said. "Could a horse get injured doing that? Yes."

Burton Smith, owner of the Elkhorn-area Chance Ridge Event Center, said in a phone interview that he believed two charreadas had taken place at his facility this year.

He does not recall ever seeing horse tripping, but steer tailing has occurred at Chance Ridge. He said he doesn't think steer tailing should be banned.

"I haven't seen them cripple a cow or anything like that," said Smith, a veterinarian whose animal hospital is next door. "I've never seen that or even where it made the tail sore."

Horse tripping is illegal in seven states, but Iowa and Nebraska are not among them.

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