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Bull Riding: An Event Guide

We are all concerned about the interests of other animals and want to know that ethical actions are taken to respect those animals. We all want to be just and fair in our treatment of all creatures, humans and non-humans. We ask that you think about the information discussed in this guide and what you are about to witness.

Friends of Animals believes that truly respecting other animals means allowing them to have full and free lives on their own terms. Bull riding proponents tell us that their bulls are worth $10,000 or more as an indication that the bulls are well treated. In contrast, we ask you to consider that these bulls are not mere things or commodities – as a monetary value suggests – but that each bull is another living, feeling being with inherent worth.

Bull riding violates bulls by coercing them to serve as objects of our entertainment. The very presence of the bulls in the arena is a concern, but obvious signs of coercion that you may want to watch for include the following: bulls in the chute having their tails twisted, bulls being shocked with a 5,000 volt "hot shot" as they exit the chute, and bulls having flank strap tightened around their flanks.

Half of a bull rider's score is based on how violently the bull reacts when attempting to throw the rider. The more violently the bull moves and kicks, the higher the rider’s score. The other half of the score is based on the rider's ability to maintain control, and extra points are usually given for literally spurring the bull on.

The main device used to provoke a bull to react is the flank strap. For a bull, the flank strap causes a terrifying sensation as if a predator were on the back or around the belly of the bull, gripping the bull's body with sharp claws. The spurs used in most bull riding events are loosely locked rollers. The rollers are the wheel-like part of the spur that is poked into the bull's sides adding to the frightening torment and pain caused by the flank strap.

In spite of the compulsive reaction induced by the flank strap, bull riding proponents claim the bulls naturally buck. But it is obvious that they do so to oppose being ridden. That is the whole point of the show. Not only does the bull attempt to throw the rider, but a bull will often attempt to stomp on, kick, or gore a rider once thrown. This is why bull riding events have "bullfighters" who can intervene to protect the rider.

The distressing practices and techniques used in bull riding and other rodeo events have been banned in Pittsburgh, which specifically prohibits the use of electric shocking devices, spurs and flank straps. Because these physical assaults are integral to bull riding events, the banning has effectively prevented bull riding.

While a form of entertainment, as opposed to a practical means of ranching, bull riding is still a dramatic demonstration of animal husbandry – the breeding and rearing of domestic animals for human use and exploitation.

Consider the importance of deciding today to stop supporting practices that celebrate the coercion and exploitation of other animals. We can each take ethical actions that respect the interests of other animals through vegan living. Veganism, as a way of living, renounces the use animals to serve our needs. This includes not attending future forms of animal entertainment like bull riding. There are plenty of ways to have fun with our friends and family that don't involve harming or exploiting other animals.

Please, also consider the way other animals are also exploited to produce food and clothing. Meat, milk and leather all come from animals bred and reared to serve our needs. Taking the interests of other animals seriously means allowing them to live on their own terms.

For more information on adopting a vegan lifestyle please contact Friends of Animals.