Coke quits rodeo; SHARK shows Dodge who builds tough trucks

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2001:

CHICAGO, LAS VEGAS, COLORADO SPRINGS, DETROIT–Things went better with Coke for Steve Hindi and SHARK. Eleven months after Pepsi Cola withdrew from advertising in bullrings, yielding to an 18-month global boycott, Coca-Cola advised Hindi on November 16, 2000 that “While our products may be available at some arenas where
rodeos may take place, we are no longer a corporate sponsor of rodeos or any affiliated organizations, including the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.”

Explained Hindi, “A Coke representative announced the decision after viewing a documentary by the French public television station ARTE. ARTE field producer Uwe Muller and SHARK worked together in October to obtain video footage of three PRCA stock contractors abusing animals and violating even the PCRA’s loose humane regulations. The ARTE documentary was aired to over 33 million viewers in Europe.

“This is a huge development,” Hindi continued. “Coca-Cola is three times larger as a corporation than Pepsi, and rodeo is vastly more popular in the U.S. than bullfighting, but the Coke executives never needed to face a demonstration to recognize after they saw the video that continued support of rodeo would violate their corporate policy against animal abuse. Coke’s withdrawal poses a major public relations blow and financial blow to the rodeo industry.”

Hindi thanked Trillium Asset Management Corporation senior analyst Simon Billiness for facilitating negotiations with Coca-Cola, thanked Vermont veterinarian and former rodeo performer Peggy Larson for expert advice, and thanked ANIMAL PEOPLE for introductions.

Hit rodeo finals

Then Hindi headed back to the Chicago-area garage where he was finishing the first of an envisioned fleet of Tiger video protest trucks, featuring oversized TV screens on all four sides of the box, with digital signboards to tell viewers what they are seeing. The $150,000 prototype hit the road to the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas on November 28.

“By driving more hours than was prudent, we made the 1,800 miles in under two days,” Hindi said. “On December 1 the Tiger approached the arena where the rodeo was to be held and lit up the evening with the rotten truth about rodeo. The rodeo stooges were at first shocked, and then started going through the roof, flipping me their I.Q. from all directions. Real people were equally taken, but they suddenly had a whole different impression about the goofs strutting around like John Wayne.”

The Tiger was featured on two TV news stations and in both Las Vegas daily newspapers. “California activist Lucy Shelton had a lot to do with that, exhibiting persistence that went beyond the call” as volunteer publicist, Hindi acknowledged. The Tiger debut tour drove on to El Segundo, California. “Late that afternoon the Tiger screens lit up outside the Mattel buildings, near the Los Angeles International Airport,” Hindi recounted.

“Mattel took offense at inserts of their bullfighting Barbie doll among our bullfighting footage. First they had their security people tail me. Next they called the police, and an officer pulled me over. He said the Mattel people claimed that the truck and I were suspicious, and they feared I was casing the place. I never would have guessed that criminals cased intended targets in big trucks that light up the evening,” Hindi laughed.

“I explained that Mattel knows who I am, what SHARK is, and what the issue is. The officer knew he had been played for a fool. He didn’t like it a bit. He wished me well, and said he would let the other area cops know what was going on.”

Beats ratings fears

An ongoing handicap for the anti-dog-and-cat-eating campaign led by Kyenan Kum of International Aid to Korean Animals has been that mainstream TV in the U.S. and Europe will not show the public how the animals are routinely tortured to death because too many viewers would change the channel.

In mid-December Hindi took Kum into the cab for several evenings of demonstrating how the Tiger can take graphic depictions of abuse directly to the public, bypassing media gatekeepers. They called ANIMAL PEOPLE by cell telephone during a pass by the Los Angeles Korean Consultate, but talking proved impossible because so many pedestrians kept coming up to the open windows of the Tiger to take handouts telling what they could do to pressure the Korean government to halt dog-and-cat-eating.

Hindi then took the Tiger back to Chicago for its 6,500-mile oil change. Along the way he took an impromptu detour to see how it played in Colorado Springs, home of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “The media jumped at the chance to cover the big truck when it challenged the rodeo animal abusers right where they live,” Hindi said. “And the cowboys? They huddled in their headquarters and hid! Korean government officials did the same thing. “When people see animal abuse, they agree with us that it has to stop. They join us. That’s what this movement needs to succeed.”

By the second week in January the Tiger was on the road again, this time to circle a Daimler-Chrysler auto show in Auburn Hills, Michigan, asking the Dodge truck division to cease spending $6.6 million a year on rodeo advertising. Hindi introduced the Tiger to Detroit media as a “concept vehicle,” and a “revolution in engineering”–which it is, involving applications of TV technology never before attempted.

Hindi and SHARK still have to raise the funds to pay off the prototype, before they build more. But compared to the cost of broadcast time to distribute a much weaker version of the message for just 15 to 30 seconds at a shot, Hindi’s conclusion from the first trials is that the Tiger is a bargain–and it hasn’t even been painted yet. “It’s the most effective tactic I’ve discovered in 11 years of campaigning,” Hindi said, a strong claim from the man who in 1992 stopped pigeon shoots in Illinois after 100 years of failures by others, and has rarely gone for long since without achieving a comparable lasting victory.

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