A November 27, 2012 article in the Los Angeles times seemed to promote that idea that prison rodeos are a good way to raise funds for inmate programs, and to teach inmates valuable skills associated with rehabilitation. But, some are asking, do they really?
The L.A. Times article clearly states that inmates have been injured, sometimes severely. The fact that someone has not yet died during competition at Angola does not negate the fact that rodeos are down-right dangerous. Prison rodeos call into question why a “correctional” facility would allow inmates, who are under the care and protection of the Louisiana government, to be put in harm’s way. Would the Louisiana Department of Correction allow a 2,000 pound speeding car to take aim at an unprotected inmate? Probably not, so why allow a 2,000 pound bull to do so?
The Times article mentions Convict Poker, a state sanctioned game in which inmates sit at a red poker table, and a bull, which is obviously made angry by some form of tortuous activity, is let loose to charge at the table and its occupants. The “winner” is whoever does not run when the bull charges towards them and doesn’t get hit, or killed.
The Angola rodeo certainly can be accused of allowing inmates to be treated with callous disregard for their health and well-being, for the sake of raising funds. Other states seem to find more creative, and humane ways to so. More and more states are providing alternative to incarceration programs, which allows savings to be applied to programs for inmates already incarcerated, as well as saving tax payers a significant amount of money by keeping people out of prison.
One glaring omission in the Times article is the cruel way the animals are treated at the Angola rodeo. The animals were not convicted of a crime. They were not sentenced to life behind bars. Yet, they find themselves being treated in a way that most people would find barbaric. It should be noted that the Federal Animal Welfare Act offers no protection for rodeo animals. In fact, ten states provide an exemption in their animal cruelty laws for rodeo practices. Ironically, Louisiana is not one of them.
Gemma Vaughan, a cruelty caseworker for the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), told Reentry Central, “Rodeos are violent events. Injuries and death to participants and animals are common. PETA, along with every national animal protection organization, is opposed to rodeos because of their inherent cruelty. With the use of cruel electric prods, flank or bucking straps, and spurs -- all of which burn, wound, and/or dig into the animals' skin and sensitive tissue -- rodeos take normally tame, docile animals and terrorize and provoke them into behavior that makes them appear to be fierce and aggressive.” To learn more about PETA Click here to go to website .
One does not have to be an animal rights activist to question how the State of Louisiana is providing rehabilitation by allowing prisoners to take part in a form of “entertainment” that allows animals to be terrorized, tortured and even killed. And prison reform organizations might be puzzled as to why human beings who are in the custody and care of the Louisiana Department of Corrections are being used as pawns in a potentially fatal “sport.” Tax payers are footing the bill for any medical expenses incurred when inmates are injured performing in the rodeo. They also have to pick up the tab for the medical treatment of animals that are injured, or more likely, for them to be euthanized. Inmates at the Angola prison are encouraged to commit acts against animals that would get them arrested if they were out in the community.
When contacted by Reentry Central to comment on prison rodeos, Anne Hornish, the Connecticut State Director for The Humane Society of the United States, sent the following:
In Opposition to Prison Rodeos
“The Humane Society of the United States opposes rodeos as they are commonly organized, since they typically cause torment and stress to animals. Rodeos expose animals to pain, injury, or even death, and encourage an insensitivity to and acceptance of the inhumane treatment of animals in the name of sport.
Rodeos take normally tame, docile animals and provoke them into behavior that makes them appear to be fierce and aggressive. Bulls and horses are tormented in the chutes prior to release into the ring. They are forced to wear bucking straps, and the rider uses spurs, which dig into the animals' flesh.
Examples of devices that are used to cause animals to react violently include electric prods, sharpened sticks, spurs, and flank straps. Accordingly, we oppose bull riding, bronco riding, steer roping, calf roping, "wild horse racing," chuck wagon racing, steer tailing, and horse tripping.
Injuries to animals, such as deep internal organ bruising, hemorrhaging, bone fractures, ripped tendons, and torn ligaments and muscles, are all expected and anticipated in this violent so-called tradition.
Rodeos consider these animals to be cheap, expendable, and replaceable. They are used time and again before their bruised and battered bodies end up at the slaughterhouse.
To subject animals to such unnecessary suffering for the frivolousness of entertainment is something that demands moral scrutiny. Further, the link between violence against animals and violence against humans has been established: Animal abuse is recognized and understood as an indicator for the increased likelihood of future violence. It would therefore appear that prison rodeos are not activities that encourage productive rehabilitation.
An example of a productive alternative for rehabilitation is “Second Chance”, an animal rehabilitation facility at the York Correctional Facility in Niantic, Connecticut. Second Chance is a collaborative effort between Connecticut’s Department of Agriculture and the Department of Corrections. This facility holds horses and other large animals that have been seized in animal cruelty cases, and inmates help to take care of these once neglected and abused animals, with the goal to rehabilitate them and place them up for adoption. Programs like that seen at Second Chance stand in diametric opposition to prison rodeos.
It boils down to the choice of how we want to encourage behavior towards the vulnerable. Here, we have the choice to either encourage the helping of animals in need, or encourage their violent exploitation. The first choice is also the humane choice, and would seem to offer individual and societal benefits in terms of rehabilitation.” For more information on the Humane Society of the United States click here to go to website .
Rodeos are an ingrained part of American culture. The Angola rodeo is usually sold out, with community members often grabbing tickets for their whole family. It is doubtful that the prison rodeo will be canceled. It is a money-maker, but one might question if it is moral or humane.
The orginal LA Times article can be read by clicking on the link below.