A petition to ban Santa Barbara’s traditional Fiesta Rodeo, and any other rodeo events in the city, has gained traction in the past few weeks with nearly 1,500 signatures.
The petition was started by Naomi Hallum, managing director of nonprofit Million Dollar Vegan, who became passionate about the issue after driving by Earl Warren Showgrounds in 2019 and seeing a group of women protesting the Fiesta Rodeo.
“Rodeos are a cruel, outdated and completely unnecessary form of entertainment that involves the painful, stressful, and harmful treatment of animals,” Hallum said.
She said that animals used in rodeos are often made to perform under duress with tools like a “hotshot” — an electric prod that scares an animal into displaying abnormally dramatic reactions through intense pain — or metal spurs and “bucking straps” that burn the animal, causing them to buck violently.
At its core, Hallum said, this issue is about “thinking about things from others’ perspectives.” She said the fact that other social causes — like Black Lives Matter or the teaching of critical race theory in schools — have gained a more powerful space in culture because of a younger generation that is more attuned to how their decisions affect others, and this is another step in that direction.
“I think we’re looking at a really conscious generation that thinks about the consequences of their actions,” Hallum said. “They’re growing up with a sense that ‘what I do has repercussions.’”
She describes the tradition of rodeos as a display of “male dominance over weaker animals,” and likens it to dogfighting or Spanish bullfighting, which have both waned in popularity over time and are prohibited throughout the country. She said that traditions are important but should be evaluated and critiqued as thinking and opinions evolve.
“Some things need to be recognized as outdated,” Hallum said. She considers Santa Barbara as one of the most progressive in the world, and that if the city wishes to continue that reputation, it must be open to change even its most precious traditions.
The petition was sent to Mayor Cathy Murillo and the Santa Barbara City Council, but it is uncertain whether they have the authority to effect an official ban at Earl Warren Showgrounds, which is technically state property, according to Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez. He said that he understands the deep roots behind rodeos, especially in Mexican tradition, but he doesn’t watch or participate in shows himself.
“I grew up going to the rodeo with my family because it reminded my parents of their hometown in Mexico, but I wasn’t a fan myself to be honest,” Gutierrez said. “It’s an ancient event that’s multicultural and a tradition to many locals, but not one I choose to participate in.”