First came the field trip. On an outing organized by the Marana School District, my six-year-old daughter and her fellow first graders were all taken to the Tucson Rodeo, where the main event during the two hours they spent there was Calf “Tie-down Roping”.
Then, later that week, came the Rodeo Holiday. My daughter, my nine-year-old third grade son and our school district’s entire student body got the annually scheduled two days off of school, ostensibly so they can have time to go to the Tucson Rodeo Grounds with their families and celebrate this so called holiday, with events such as Horse “Bareback Riding”, “Steer Wrestling”, Calf “Team Roping”, “Bull Riding”, and, the kids’ special, Sheep “Mutton Busting”.
And last came the February 26 issue of the Explorer. As a good local newspaper should, the Explorer reported on the Rodeo. Spread over half of the front page and a full page inside were pictures and captions of some of the festival’s events.
La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, the Tucson Rodeo, is steeped in tradition and history. It has been taking place in our city for eighty-nine years and has established itself as a major attraction, supported by both locals and visitors. But I think the time has come for the Rodeo to end. It is time for us to realize that the Rodeo is not all fun and games. It is time for us to understand that what happens in the Rodeo is systematic abuse and exploitation of helpless animals, many of them baby animals. It is time for us to stop taking our children to the Rodeo because continuing to do so only teaches them false values and perpetuates the suffering of the animals. It is time for all of us to admit to ourselves what deep in our hearts we already know -- that the notion that animals used in Rodeos are well taken care of and “like” what they do is pure myth, despite the insistence of these events’ contestants and facilitators to the contrary. The time has come for us to tell all those who profit from the Rodeo – enough.
One final thought: when discussion starts on what to do with the deserted Tucson Rodeo Grounds, how about turning the facility into a sanctuary for abused animals?