My Turn: Sweigert misses the point with rodeo column
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; Though I find Bob Sweigert’s response to John Merryfield’s letter asking for animal compassion to be vitriolic, I understand that Sweigert is simply reacting via human nature: He’s angered because he thinks someone is telling him what to do. He also predictably attacks what he doesn’t know (apparent again in his recent off-kilter piece on what he thinks a vegan is). I imagine columnists to be more open minded and researched about topics, but perhaps I expect too much.
Mr. Merryfield did err by not adequately informing as to why he asks for compassion for animals in the rodeo and the meat industry, but he has done research to reach these conclusions. Maybe Sweigert can manage some research as well? After reviewing rodeocruelty.com, see circuses.com and ringlingbeatsanimals.com for additional insight into animals trapped in the entertainment industry. Then, visit Truckee Thursdays where you’ll find Mr. Merryfield warmly greeting and speaking with people at the Farm Sanctuary booth. There, he’ll actually pay you to watch a short video, and#8220;From Farm to Fridge.and#8221; Or, Google the and#8220;Meet your Meatand#8221; video narrated by Alec Baldwin. Perhaps then you will begin to understand the concepts of which Merryfield speaks.
Sweigert erroneously compares cowboys who compassionately tend to their herds (investments) to the rodeo crowd. Rodeo thugs aren’t the romantic cowboys of the west! They are profiteers who think nothing of abusing non-aggressive animals for profit. Animals are carted around in sweltering heat to wait in more sweltering heat for some human to violently have their turn with them. Apparently, Sweigert has not seen a horse with a broken back or leg screaming in agony as it’s drug from the arena to later become dog food, nor felt the pain of electro-shocking before the shoot opens, nor felt cinches tightened about his genitals. Nor can he empathize for terrified baby cows subjected to torturous calf roping. Babies! It’s all just cowboy fun to him.
In an interview about abusive calf roping events, the chairman of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association himself said this: and#8220;Do I think it hurts the calf? Sure I do. I’m not stupid.and#8221;
Calf roper, T.K. Hardy says, and#8220;I keep 30 head of cattle around for practice, at $200 a head. You can cripple three or four in an afternoon. So it gets to be a pretty expensive hobby.and#8221;
Former bronco rider and large animal veterinarian, Peggy Larson, concludes: and#8220;Without torture, there can be no rodeos. In my opinion, and based on my extensive training and experience, it is impossible to create a humane rodeo.and#8221;
I understand Sweigert is just indoctrinated and#8212; by his own admission and#8212; growing up with the rodeo, the food industry and a love of BBQ. It’s not his fault he can’t see beyond his indoctrination. Few can. What does irk me is when an essayist scours letters to the editor then trounces upon someone who challenges their entrenched belief systems. Real writers research, employ critical thinking, objectivity, and bring us to the point where, as Jim Porter says, we start a conversation.
At the rodeo, thousands of children will also be indoctrinated and desensitized toward animals in the name of family fun, leaving us with yet another generation with no regard for sentient beings who are viewed as nothing but profit units, entertainment units, or food units.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard, and#8220;It’s only a stupid animal,and#8221; as an excuse for abuse, I’d be on a lovely cruise in the Greek Islands. Add a dollar more for those citing bible passages as their excuse to abuse and I’d be able to add the Amalfi Coast to my itinerary. None of creation is stupid, but one is the cruelest: mankind, the only species that enslaves and tortures the vulnerable for profit and pleasure.
I’m sure Sweigert is a nice man, but I am compelled to defend Merryfield, who is merely advocating for the voiceless. Sweigert, enjoy your rodeoing and BBQing as part of the world you desire. It’s your consciousness, your body, your choice. But understand that people like Mr. Merryfield and I have examined our belief systems, because the world we inhabit is one where we are deeply and acutely aware of unspeakable animal suffering resulting from self-serving human behavior. I am thankful for the mindset of Mr. Merryfield as a beacon of hope to hold in my heart that aches daily for the helpless and exploited.
Keaven Van Lom is a Truckee resident.