I love the spirit and activities of Fiesta, but as a veterinarian and local resident, I am beseeching the city of Santa Barbara to stop funding the rodeo and begging my fellow community members to boycott it.
The animals used are routinely hit, kicked, spurred, slammed into the ground, and forcibly prodded into participating in violent displays. In calf-roping, young calves race desperately out of the chute and often sustain neck and spinal injuries when the rope yanks them abruptly and violently to the ground. In horse-bucking and bull-riding events, a sturdy leather strap is tightened around their tender flanks and groin, causing them to buck wildly in an effort to rid themselves of it.
My medical training gives me the insight that the actual rodeo event is only the tip of the cruelty iceberg. Additionally there are the many months and years of abusive training, and then the horses and cattle used on the circuit are hauled long distances in cramped trailers from one venue to the next with little downtime to rest or recuperate. When too worn-out or broken-down to continue, they aren’t retired to comfortable pastures — they typically get a one-way ticket to the slaughterhouse. And those are the lucky ones.
This is why the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, representing almost 5.000 veterinary professionals, opposes rodeos: “… the animals are subjected to harassment, stress and torment and it is not uncommon for animals in rodeos to be severely injured or killed.”
Fiesta is our grand signature event. Do we want it tarnished with this antiquated blood-sport masquerading as entertainment? Judging from the community spirit I have witnessed, I don’t think so.
Paula Kislak is president of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association and a member of the board of the Humane Society of the United States