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Animal-Rights Group Targets Rodeo
by Amy Wooten

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An animal-rights organization founded and headed by a gay man is calling on the local LGBT community to boycott the upcoming Windy City Rodeo.

Windy City Rodeo is an annual gay rodeo created by the Illinois Gay Rodeo Association ( ILGRA ) . Mercy for Animals is calling on the gay community to boycott the event. The organization says that rodeos—gay or straight—harm and exploit animals. ILGRA says that these claims are untrue, and members are saddened that these attacks are coming from within the community.

'Quite simply, rodeos, like hate crimes, are unacceptable forms of violence against the vulnerable that the gay community should work diligently to end,' said Mercy for Animals founder and executive director Nathan Runkle, who cited an instance witnessed by a staff member a number of years back at a Minnesota gay rodeo event, where a steer was injured and killed.

According to Runkle, rodeos force animals to perform against their will and are inherently cruel. 'In fact, nearly all animals exploited in rodeo events endure the stress of transport, the inherent cruelty of the rodeo events, and then have their throats slit at slaughterhouses when they are no longer useful,' Runkle said.

The 2007 Windy City Rodeo will take place Aug. 24-26 in Crete, Ill. The event raises funds for local organizations.

ILGRA is a member of the International Gay Rodeo Association ( IGRA ) , an organization that comprises 28 associations from the United States and Canada. IGRA has a uniform set of rules demanding the humane treatment of animals. IGRA claims its rules have been greatly modified from straight rodeo rules.

'We do not do the cruel and heinous things that organizations like this would like you to believe,' ILGRA trustee and president emeritus Ed Barry said in a letter sent to Windy City Times. 'Our position is unique to the world of rodeo and we are very proud of our pro animal, safety and competitor position.'

Under these rules, contestants found guilty of cruelty towards animals are penalized. The least severe punishment is immediate disqualification from further competition.

According to Windy City Rodeo Co-Director Anthony Adamowski, ILGRA has used the same livestock contractor for many years due to his professionalism and the quality of his animals. 'On occasion, animals ( like human rodeo competitors ) can get injured,' Adamowski said. 'When that happens, the animal is immediately pulled from competition and tended to by our on-site veterinarian.'

Adamowski said that there has not been an instance at a Windy City Rodeo where a participant had to be penalized for cruelty toward the animals. 'I've gone back through our rodeo review file for the past several years and have found no instances in which a competitor was disqualified from the rodeo due to allegations of animal mistreatment,' he said. 'Nor could I find any instances in which an arena official, volunteer, and/or members of the stock ­contractor's staff was reprimanded for animal cruelty.'

Among other things, the IGRA Rodeo Rules include bylaws that prohibit the use of lame, sick, sore or undersized stock; and they enforce the release of animals in danger of injury. IGRA's Statement on Animal Welfare can be found at

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