Locals protest against animal cruelty at Truckee rodeo

Margaret Moran
From left, Aguila Nelson, Margaret Kirkpatrick, Susan Kirkpatrick, Alida Labia and John Merryfield protest animal cruelty outside the Truckee Professional Rodeo on Saturday afternoon.
Margaret Moran / | Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calf. — “Go home,” a young male driver tells a small group holding a demonstration against animal cruelty, before heading in the direction of the Truckee Professional Rodeo on Saturday.

“It’s not something that deters me,” said Kings Beach resident John Merryfield, one of those demonstrating, after the incident. “I think when you question the practices of exploiting animals, it threatens people, and certainly that’s not the intention. The intention is to inspire change in the practices.”

Merryfield and four others stood on the side of Brockway Road, near the corner of Estates Drive, late Saturday afternoon, holding bright posters with sayings such as “stop the torture” and “compassion for all animals” in protest of the annual rodeo.

“It’s an antiquated form of entertainment — to rope, prod animals to make them run,” said Merryfield, an animal rights activist. “… I think we can teach our children and the community less violent forms of entertainment.”

“I think we can teach our children and the community less violent forms of entertainment.”
John Merryfield
Kings Beach resident

Throughout Saturday’s rodeo, the announcer mentioned several times that the livestock’s safety was of high priority, while events such as calf roping, bareback riding and bull riding took place before approximately 500 attendees.

“There is not one harsh treatment being done on these animals,” said Stephanie Buranzon, executive chair of the Truckee Professional Rodeo.

Merryfield disagrees, saying cruelty toward animals is present at all rodeos.

A Truckee rodeo event he finds to be “most cruel” is calf roping — where a calf runs in front of a horse-mounted rider, who tries to hurl a lasso around the animal’s neck, before dismounting and tying the calf’s legs together as quickly as possible.

Such a practice can not only physically hurt the calf, but emotionally, too, Merryfield said.

“They’re sentient beings,” said Alida Labia, who was also protesting the rodeo. “They feel pain. They have emotions. … They want to avoid pain just like we do. Nobody wants to be in pain.”

As Labia and the other protestors spread their message, occasional horn beeps issued from passing vehicles in support.

“People are instinctively compassionate and want to be compassionate to all beings — be it either human or animal.” Labia said. “I think if they knew, they wouldn’t support the rodeo because no one likes to see a creature or a fellow human suffer.”

Merryfield recently completed a 72-mile circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe on a paddleboard to promote his Vegan 1 Day project for the fifth consecutive year.

It was an effort to bring attention to the plight of factory farmed animals, he said, while extolling the health benefits of eating a whole-foods, plant-based vegan diet.

As for the Truckee rodeo, he said the ultimate goal is to end it.

“Our intention is to protect animals and be a voice for them,” he said. “They didn’t give consent to be part of the rodeo.”

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