Last weekend, I stood with Friends of Animals activists and dozens of supporters to protest the violent scenes taking place in at Madison Square Garden at the Professional Bull Riders 2008 Versus International Competition. We held posters and handed out Bull Riding: An Event Guide.
Inside, bulls were being tested for steroids; outside, our demonstration was greeted by city bull-riding fans, some of them drunk, grabbing their testicles and shouting "You're crazy!"
"I love steak!"
"Free Michael Vick!"
They swaggered and laughed, waving their cowboy hats, aiming cameras at us and our signs. Many took our flyers and them ripped up in our faces and then threw them away. Finger-pointing, red-faced cowboys told me how ignorant I was. "Yeehaw!"
Some people were respectful and were grateful to take our flyers, and asked serious questions, including passerby not attending the bull riding show.
A couple passed by, the woman reached out and took a flyer and smiled. The man turned to her, ripped the flyer out of her hand, stomped back toward me and ripped up the flyer. He glared at me triumphantly.
But aggressive reactions to our presence were not limited to men only. A drunken woman yelled, inches from my face, until the cops pulled her away.
For passing out educational flyers that depicted the reality behind the "sport" of bull-riding, such as the tight flank straps and metal spurs and electric prods that inflict anger and pain on the bulls to provoke the convulsive bucking necessary for scoring, I was called a whore.
At least two ticket-holders who, upon reading our flyers, decided that they could no longer attend the event. For them, Friends of Animals provided a critical element of disagreement with disrespect and domination portrayed as entertainment. Our continued opposition creates the possibility of a society that chooses respect over oppression.
Appearing today with photos on Friends of Animals' Website and Blog. www.friendsofanimals.org
[Then there's the cowboy chant about raping animals in the rodeo -- see end of second paragraph: "Honor, stay on her...if you can't come in her, come on her."]
The night before, a group called Friends of Animals had staged a protest outside the Garden. Edita Birnkrant, the group's New York City campaign coordinator, called bull riding "animal abuse portrayed as sport." Reached by phone Saturday, she estimated that two dozen people had showed up to join the previous night's "vigil." "The entire concept and reality of bull riding is just a farce," she said. "It's all about these wild beasts being dominated by these tough guys, and nothing could be further from the truth. They're domestic animals who are tormented in order to buck so the riders can make a competition out of it." Ms. Birnkrant pointed specifically to the flank straps tied around bulls' bellies, the riders' spurs and electric prods that she said are used in the bucking chutes to shock the bulls into more hysterical bucking.
She said her group has not tried to engage the PBR on any of their complaints. "What we're saying is not that we're trying to impose some sort of regulation, or that there's a more humane way to do this. We're saying that this kind of event shouldn't exist at all."