Tag Archives: rodeo

Animal Activist Do’s and Don’ts – A Code of Conduct For Protests

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Amberlea with clover for her horseWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Artwork by:  Heather Clemenceau

I think that many people hear the term “Code of Conduct” and think that they are automatically about to be thrown in a straitjacket of do-goodiness.  But a Code of Conduct is really just an itemization of our ethics – it sets the tone from the top down, on what our culture of protest, use of social media, etc. will be.  When the Code is understood by activists, it protects us from our own occasional tendency to want to behave roguishly, and it shows people who are watching and listening to us that we have lines that we just won’t cross,  no matter what others do.

I believe that protests should have principles that govern us.  So I’m drawing on my own experience in the Corporate world as well as the activist world in itemizing what I think are important facets of an activist Code of Conduct:

  • We stand for non-violent protection of animals.  Peaceful protest is honourable protest.
  • Keep the protest passive and try to avoid individuals who are overtly negative.  If they insist on arguing with us, stick to the facts.  Do not use inflammatory language or insults when pointing out your legal position and your right to protest
  • What are my rights and freedoms as a photographer in Ontario?  Here is an excellent resource that explains what can be photographed,  who owns a photo,  and what can be published – Ontario Photographers Rights.
  • Do not endanger yourself or others.  If you put yourself into a situation,  then someone else must either come looking for you or must assist or rescue you,  which also puts them at risk.
  • Stand on public property.  Stand where the police tell you and make note of their badge number if the request is questionable.  If a property owner insists that you stand somewhere else, be cautious,  since the police are the ones who must enforce trespassing laws.
  • Do Use the services of the local SPCA and other agencies that advocate for animals  – they can often help raise awareness of the issues or of future protests.  Ask them to include the dates of future protests in email blasts or newsletters.
  • Do not be defamatory – do not make claims about a person’s reputation or business that may be damaging and untrue.Killer Whales (2)
  • We will always make certain that we are parking on public property.  Please do not park on private property and then proceed to protest against the person or organization upon whose property you just trespassed.
  • Do not be threatening, abusive,  harassing,  and do not invade anyone’s personal privacy.
  • Do not make sexist, racist, profane, homophobic, or otherwise offensive and discriminatory remarks
  • Do not promote violence or other unlawful acts including trespassing.
  • Call the police if someone commits an offence against you so that documentation exists.
  • Obey the law and the police. The Animal Welfare/Rights movement is one that is increasingly intersecting with traditional areas of law such as tort, criminal, property, and constitutional law.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in Canada’s constitution, guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly in section 2(c).
  • We must be responsible and accountable for our actions, intended or unintended.
  • We don’t condone wrongdoing in ourselves and will be responsible and speak up when it occurs.
  • Do create petitions,  use photographs and factual information to support the petition.  Rely on crowdsourcing to route your petition.  Do find a way to occasionally send a message to the people who have signed your petition to keep them up to date on the progress of your cause.
  • We won’t abuse alcohol or drugs.
  • Contact the police ahead of the protest.  Ask if permits are required.  If so,  ensure that they are fully complied with.
  • If we see violence or vandalism occur, we will report it and co-operate with authorities if required.when pigs fly
  • Know thy audience.  Familiarize yourself with the goal of the protest.  If you create your own signage,  make sure that it aligns with these goals.  Some groups are not susceptible to certain message points,  which means your time and effort protesting will be minimalized or lost entirely.
  • If we use a megaphone, we will ensure that its use is sporadic rather than constant.  We will observe all local bylaws regarding megaphone use.  We will ensure that megaphones are not used excessively in residential areas and we will always use it to convey factual information.  We will not use a megaphone if it startles flight animals.
  • We will respect the rights of non-violence and compassion.
  • We will leave no garbage behind.
  • We will always present ourselves as ordinary, everyday citizens, (which we are).  We have justifiable concerns.  We must also develop and sustain a sense of practicality and realism when responding to questions and concerns.
  • Select an issue that is of particular concern to you and run a campaign to foster change within your local community, workplace or university, or on a larger scale.
  • Video Documentation should be used with a view to preserving evidence and documenting our performance.  Video recording at demos and other events can be a critically useful tool in helping us to review and improve upon our effectiveness. It can also serve as a deterrent to intimidating or violent behavior to our opponents in addition to recourse to be used in litigation. Video recording, however, may unintentionally inflame passions or be viewed as an tool of intimidation if not handled correctly. In view of this it is essential that recording demos and events be done so in a professional manner that avoids aggressive behavior and avoids as much as possible verbal exchanges. (Thanks for this suggestion Martin)

Girl chasing sheepFor a long time it was left to philosophers to speak up in defence of animals.  For example,  Pythagoras urged respect for animals. In the 17th century, early animal protection laws were advanced by Locke, Rousseau, Bentham,  John Stuart Mill et al,  and followed eventually Henry Berg,  who founded the ASPCA.  What we hold in common with the philosophers is that we can advance animal issues by using critical reasoning,  the most effective strategy.

The way has not been easy for contemporary animal activists and will perhaps get even more difficult. The animal exploitation industries have huge resources behind them, and have the ear of government,  But it is impossible to believe that, in the end, justice and compassion will not triumph.

“The question is not can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?”

Space Migration with blue energy field

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We’re Goin’ to the Rodeo Y’All – Protest of the Ram Rodeo Tour

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When it comes to the abuse of animals in entertainment, rodeos rank among the top culprits. While it’s very typical to see many rodeos in Alberta,  there aren’t so many appearing in Ontario,  until the Dodge Ram brand brought it to Newmarket Ontario.  At this event ticket holders can expect to see saddle bronc,  bareback,  bull riding,  steer wrestling, tie down,  and team roping.  Today,  we’re in horse country in York Region Ontario,  home to over 1500 horse farms and more than 20,000 horses,  and during three shifts on Saturday and Sunday – thousands of people,  including horse owners,  will see our signs.

Many Canadian rodeo aficionados cite tradition,  culture and athleticism as justification for events such as steer-riding, chuck wagon racing,  and calf-roping.  In the face of increased public critique,  animal welfare groups are helping to shed light on the cruelty of these events. Canada’s animal cruelty legislation is a disagrace – the laws have not been substantially changed since 1892.  Grassroots movements of Canadians say things need to change. There have already been at least 25 walks across the country and around the world, trying to bring awareness to Canada’s horrible animal cruelty legislation.

Animal welfare groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), also object to rodeos. The ASPCA calls them “a cruel form of entertainment that involves the painful, stressful and potentially harmful treatment of livestock.”  The Vancouver Humane Society was instrumental in bringing international focus to the issue of rodeos in Canada,  via the League Against Cruel Sports.  This is a first step toward internationalising opposition to rodeos in Canada and making it  harder for rodeos to justify their use of animals as “entertainment.”

“Sometimes tradition and habit are just that, comfortable excuses to leave things be, even when they are unjust and unworthy. Sometimes–not often, but sometimes–the cranks and radicals turn out to be right.”
Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

Tradition and heritage are two very emotional words,  heavy with meaning.  Yet,  despite those historical connections,  the Catalonians have banned bullfighting,  which was intensely tied to their nationhood and heritage.  The British have outlawed foxhunting.  The scarlet coated riders are now gone,  even though few things were more “British” than stately homes,  country weekends,  and The Hunt.  I wonder, with regard to Canadian tradition,  how many settlers had to ride or wrestle steers and race chuckwagons at breakneck speeds across the prairie?  I don’t believe that calf roping has ever been a sport but it was made so for entertainment and prize-money, as was bull-riding. Think about it: why would anyone ride a bull? It was created for entertainment and was not something based on culture or tradition.  But despite the fact that their own country outlawed rodeos many years ago,  royal couple Will and Kate visited the Calgary Stampede.  These events are not sports,  but an entertainment spectacle and part of that spectacle are the accidents that inevitably result.  Horse tripping relies on the horse to fall down as part of the spectacle.  Rodeos are a brutish business.

“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it” Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

There are many cultural traditions that are not morally acceptable. Think shark finning, whaling and bear bile farming.  If many of these cruel practices against animals were promoted as a brand new form of entertainment,  virtually every animal lover would demand that the practice cease.  Imagine if “horse tripping” were not tied to tradition and parlayed about as a Mexican cultural practice?  The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), which sanctions about 600 rodeos each year in the United States and Canada, does not even allow horse-tripping,  which is exactly as stupid and dangerous as it sounds.  I sent a message to the account holder of the above video (Randy Janssen – read more about him here).  He sent me a reply, but still didn’t post my statement – coward!   This means that he cannot rebut even the most reasonable arguments against the practice.

“If you have proof of animals being injured in Charreada, send it to me and I will post it. Proof is not unsubstantiated ranting from someone who has never been in a lienzo. It is pictures or videos of injuries in the lienzo. You can see live Charreada on Spanish TV or the decharros (dot) com. You can also see videos of complete Charreada if you google livestreamdecharros. I want you to watch it so you will see that Charros and Charras are good people who would never intentionally hurt animals.Please watch this video.” Looks like I can’t provide any proof unless I’ve been in a “lienzo,”  whatever that is.  Oh,  and he tells you right upfront on the video that he doesn’t allow postings from “animal rights activists,”  and of course ratings are disabled too.  If these people think their “sport” is so harmless,  why don’t they have the courage to allow the general viewership of YouTube to comment and vote on some of these practices?

This truck tried to side-swipe us with the stock trailer

Come at me ‘bro.  This truck tried to side-swipe us with the stock trailer while we stood on Davis Drive.  Stock trailer wheels nearly ran over our feet,  and this was no accident!

Many rodeo participants are sincere when they say that they love their animals.  Recall the chuckwagon driver Chad Harden of the Calgary Stampede, who cried when his horses died in a terrible wreck this year.   But what does the word “love” mean if we are willing to profit from and place in injurious situations those we “love?” Rodeo animals are sent to slaughter, not to retirement and pasture, when they cease to perform at a profit.   Whilst it is a sad fact that many animals sustain severe if not fatal injuries when used for entertainment in rodeos, it is perhaps sadder that one can almost guarantee each and every one of them has felt fear and confusion.

“I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.”
Ellen DeGeneres

“In riding a horse, we borrow freedom”
Helen Thompson

“When I hear somebody talk about a horse or cow being stupid; I figure it’s a sure sign that the animal has somehow outfoxed them”
Tom Dorrance, True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse & Human

“Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.”
George Bernard Shaw

“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”
Woodrow Wilson

“What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness.”
Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

“There’s nothing more embarrassing than to have earned the disfavor of a perceptive animal.”
Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys