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Editorial: Rodeo fans, Consider the animals

East Oregonian, April 19, on why rodeo fans should consider welfare of animals:

A bill that bans horse tripping yet reaffirms the “right to rodeo” has passed the Oregon Senate, with backing from the Pendleton Round-Up and its supporters.

It is a change in stance from the Round-Up board, who were against a similar proposal in 2011 because they thought it may be the first step down a slippery slope to outlawing calf and steer roping — two of the rodeo’s signature events.

Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, stepped in to provide a solution. He first introduced Senate Bill 835, which outlaws recreational horse tripping, but at the same time reaffirms the legality of mainstream rodeo disciplines.

It should be stated that horse roping is not a mainstream rodeo event. Only one rodeo in the state — the Jordan Valley Rodeo — puts on the event.

It can be a visually shocking exercise where cowboys rope the legs or neck of horses, sometimes causing them to tumble to the ground headfirst. It can be dangerous to the animals and accidents, while rare, can be fatal.

So too, of course, can other rodeo events.

Which shows how the Round-Up must toe the line between the excitement and tradition of their grand spectacle while being cognizant of the welfare of the animals involved and the changing tastes of their fans. They must be considerate of the fact that some of their most ardent supporters will not stand for any animal being treated inhumanely. In fact, if they believe such action is occurring, or is endemic to the event, they may do more than just refrain from buying tickets. They may actively oppose it and lobby against it.

Because animals are at the heart of the rodeo, it’s important to draw clear lines about how they can and can’t be treated in and out of the arena. This piece of legislation does draw a distinction between the horse roping event and the actions of the pick-up men, who help corral bucking broncs after their rider has been thrown.

Bills like SB835 help protect what rodeo needs protected, while understanding and accepting the queasiness some Oregonians feel when they believe animals are being mistreated.

Round-Up supporters say all the right things about animal welfare, and we have no reason to doubt their commitment to the cause. They must know that their success — and possibly even their existence — are dependent on treating the animals that make rodeo so fantastic as humanely as possible.

We hope, and think, they are up to the task.

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