CHARC tapes rodeo shocker
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1997:
WHEATON, Illinois––The calls became familiar: “Steve
here,” barked a hoarse voice from a highway telephone booth. “I went to
the [any town] rodeo last night. I caught ‘em shocking the bulls again in
the chutes and just coming out, right on the anus and testicles.”
Temporarily grounded by damage to his paraglider and lack of
funds to fix it, Chicago Animal Rights Coalition founder Steve Hindi
opened July by leading a fifth year of protest against the Wauconda
Rodeo, whose receipts have fallen 30% since the demonstrations began,
but Steve then fell uncustomarily quiet. Anonymous callers, possibly
spies, asked ANIMAL PEOPLE if he was maybe in jail somewhere.
But before Hindi et al were the Flying CHARCS, noted for flying
between birds and hunters, and for chasing deer away from hunters,
they were the videographers whose dramatic night footage stopped the
rocket-netting of deer in several Chicago suburbs, whose undercover
work won passage of an Illinois ban on horse-tripping as part of charro
rodeo, and whose penetration of the notorious annual Lone Pine turkey
shoot, formerly held in Middleport, Pennsylvania, shut it down as soon
as the organizers realized what Hindi’s camera had captured.
Now Hindi was on the road, stalking not just one rodeo but all.
On August 7, he shared some of what he had with DuPage
County Illinois State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett, asking him to bring cruelty
charges against the Lazy C Rodeo based on his video of a July 26 performance
at the DuPage County Fair. The performance was not sanctioned
by either the International Professional Rodeo Association or the
Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
“During the first seven and a half minutes of the tape,” Hindi
wrote, “you will view a man in the back of the chutes handling a large
electric prod, covered with a towel. Electric prods are commonly used in
rodeo, but their use is regulated by the two main umbrella organizations
––the IPRC and the PCRA. Their rules state that electric prods should be
used as little as possible, and only when necessary to move animals into
the chute,” from which they enter the ring.
“You will notice,” Hindi continued, “that the video shows the
animals being continuously shocked after they are already in the chute.
The final shock before exit excites the animal into bucking.”
At the Lazy C Rodeo, Hindi also videotaped cowboys kicking
bulls, a horse banging his head on a sign, and many other incidents of
rough treatment, but it was the sneaky use of the electric prod that interested
him. He studied prods. He found different types in use, some quite
small, but always, he told ANIMAL PEOPLE, they were concealed
from the crowd yet used liberally to make bulls and horses buck––and
they showed up clearly, when he reviewed his video frame-by-frame.
Hindi attended the Big Hat Rodeo in Kendall, Illinois, and the
Boone County Fair Rodeo: same thing, he reported: “I got it on camera.”
He moved on, out of state, around the national rodeo circuit.
By late August, Hindi had attended as many rodeos as most
rodeo cowboys. “They used an electric shocking device at every one of
them,” he told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “And I got it on video at every one.”
He added that a major TV news program was already interested.
An apparent spokesperson for the Wauconda Rodeo c o u ntered
the July 13 CHARC protest by repeatedly reading a statement
denouncing CHARC video of past performances, distributed to media and
aired on site via portable monitor––until he was recognized by R o b y n
Douglas of Earth Network News and acknowledged his identity to Hindi
before departing: former veterinarian Ross Hugi, 53, who pleaded guilty
to wire fraud in 1994 and turned state’s witness against Richard Bailey,
62, in connection with defrauding widow Barbara Morris of $50,000 in a
racehorse deal. Forty people were eventually convicted in related fraud
cases; Bailey was also convicted of soliciting the murder of candy heiress
Helen Brach, who disappeared in 1977.
Proposed amendments to PRCA bylaws would allow rodeos
to substitute the presence of a veterinary technician for a veterinarian at
performances, and would waive the veterinary presence in undefined
“extreme extenuating circumstances.” Rodeo expert Eric Mills of Action
for Animals says the $200 fine for noncompliance with the current rule is
too low, weakening it “would be a real setback,” and believes the rules
should be amended to prohibit on-site veterinarians from also being rodeo
participants, as a distracted or disabled veterinarian might neglect animal
welfare. Mills asks that comments be sent to PRCA commissioner Lewis
C r y e r, PRCA, 101 ProRodeo Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919,
with a copy to Action for Animals, POB 20184, Oakland, CA 94620.
“They call it the ‘World Famous Suicide Race,’ Interactive
section editor Doug Floyd of the Spokane S p o k e s m a n – R e v i e w e d i t o r i a lized
of the annual Omak, Washington horse event on August 15, “but
riders aren’t the ones dying at the rate of about one per year. If they were,
the Omak Stampede’s annual headline event would be history. Picture
20 horses and riders gathered atop a 120-foot-high embankment, plunging
down a cliff, then splashing into the rushing waters of a 345-foot-wide
river that must be swum and escaped, up a steep, slippery bank before the
dash to the finish. To reduce horse injuries,” Floyd acknowledged, “race
organizers started to cut back the number of times the event would be run
this year, but they relented when riders protested. If Stampede officials
really want to do all they can in the name of safety,” he concluded, “they
won’t just scale the race back in 1998, they’ll end it.”