ALBANY — New York's agricultural community is bucking legislation that would ban allegedly "cruel" rodeo acts -- including bull riding and calf roping.
The measure was drafted by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, an animal rights advocate who launched the push to curb New York rodeos after learning that Madison Square Garden will be the setting for an extravaganza — "Rodeo New York" — to be televised on the Cowboy Channel in June.
Rosenthal branded rodeos "a blood sport masquerading as entertainment." Last year, the lawmaker was the prime sponsor of legislation that led to New York being the nation's first state to ban the declawing of cats.
But her new proposal to corral some rodeo acts is kicking up more resistance.
Opponents call a ban on rodeos unnecessary and point out the events draw enthusiastic crowds when they are held at county fairs and several upstate ranches.
"We encourage Assemblywoman Rosenthal to actually attend a rodeo and meet with horse owners before sponsoring what may be a well-intentioned, but misguided and unwarranted bill," said Steve Ammerman, spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau. The nonprofit group is the lobby for the state's agricultural industry.
The county fairs, equine businesses, riders and others would be "negatively affected by the legislation," he added.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has also been campaigning for a ban on rodeo acts.
The group alleges that "horses are viciously spurred into bucking" while bulls are routinely injected with anabolic steroids to make them more aggressive.
Dr. Peggy Larson, a Vermont veterinarian who joined Rosenthal for a press conference promoting the ban on New York rodeos, said the animals used in rodeo shows are often left with ruptured organs, torn muscles and other serious injuries.
"The money is what is most important, not the animals," Larson said.
But Karleen DuMond, who operates Golden Gait Farm in upstate Masonville and has attended numerous rodeos, said those who participate in the events treat the animals properly.
"It's not cruel to the animals at all," said DuMond, noting her own children participate in barrel racing, a type of rodeo event. "Doing away with rodeos is not going to help anyone and it will hurt some businesses. It's kind of depressing to think they would want to take this away from kids. It's crazy."
So far, one town in New York, Southampton on Long Island, has come close to banning rodeos by outlawing the use of electric prods, flank or bucking straps, wire tie-downs, sharpened spurs, bull hooks and bullwhips.
California bans the use of shocking prods once an animal is in the chute. Rhode Island has banned all calf roping. Nevada, meanwhile, has banned steer roping.
The groups endorsing Rosenthal's proposal include Horseracing Wrongs, NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Liveable Streets), SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), Red Robin Song Animal Sanctuary in West Lebanon, Horseracing Wrongs and the Animal Cruelty Exposure Fund.
Last year, legislation was enacted in New York to ban the use of elephants in circuses and parades. That measure was dubbed the Elephant Protection Act.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org