From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2002
Bulldogging the Olympic Rodeo
SALT LAKE CITY--"The Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the forthcoming Winter Olympic Games was expected to drop the scheduled February 9-11 Command Performance Rodeo from the Cultural Olympiad at a January 3 meeting with rodeo foes," ANIMAL PEOPLE reported in our December edition, citing coverage from both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News, and quoting rodeo protest leader Steve Hindi, who flew to Salt Lake City in anticipation of the announcement.
SLOC president Mitt Romney "suggested that if calf-roping is in, then SLOC is out," Salt Lake City mayoral spokesperson Joshua Ewing told Brady Snyder of the Deseret News, but Romney was apparently blowing smoke, because Hindi et al learned on January 3 that the rodeo was to proceed as planned, with calf-roping included. That was just the start of a difficult month for Hindi and SHARK, who kept their promises to SLOC and Romney by meeting the Olympic Torch Relay in Chicago with the SHARK video van [photo on page 6] and preceding the relay runners all the way to Salt Lake City, airing footage of rodeo violence on big screens facing in four directions, with digital signboards explaining why.
Sharing the driving and frequent alleged harassment from local police and rodeo fans were SHARK staff member Donna Hertel, Salt Lake City protest coordinator Colleen Gardner, and volunteer Don Hein. Hertel and Gardner were in the cab when the truck was pelted with hard objects, beer, and nail polish in San Luis Obispo, California.
Unanticipated nasty surprises en route included word on January 22 that Salt Lake Pro/Am Rodeo promoter Craig Mattice planned to follow the Command Performance Rodeo with another rodeo, having leased arena space from the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park & Event Center for February 10-13.
That was followed on January 29 with the news that Mattel Inc. is again marketing the "Spanish Barbie" doll dressed as a bullfighter, which was withdrawn from distribution in 2000 after a previous SHARK campaign.
While the SHARK truck traveled, Utah Animal Rights Coalition president Sean Diener on January 14 won reversal of a decision by Salt Lake City special events coordinator Shawn McDonough to deny the group permits to protest near Medals Plaza and the Delta Center. On January 24, Diener also won assurances from the Salt Lake City Council, city attorney Roger Cutler, and police chief Rick Dinse that a new ordinance against "wearing masks with intent to commit a crime" would not be used to prevent anti-rodeo demonstrators from wearing a Mitt-the-Cow costume or other costumes which might be used in sidewalk skits, and would also not apply to use of ski masks to keep warm during anticipated sub-zero temperatures. The anti-Olympic rodeo efforts of SHARK, UARC, and a simultaneous campaign by PETA are only loosely coordinated. The most visible activities by PETA in January were putting up an anti-rodeo billboard in Salt Lake City, and the January 23 arrest of PETA member Sean Gifford for creating a disturbance, after he chained himself to the door of the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, while wearing a sign saying, "Don't Shame the Games--Stop the Olympic Rodeo!"
E-mailed Michael Mountain, cofounder of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, and the No More Homeless Pets in Utah coalition, "The word came down from the high mucky-mucks of the U.S. Olympic Committee. 'Cease and desist!' they ordered. What could Fido and Fluffy have done? Maybe they had failed a drug test. Perhaps they had been caught placing bets on the giant slalom. In fact, the Humane Society of Utah had used the forbidden phrase 'Go For The Gold" in their promotion of licensed Olympic Pet I.D. tags. This, we were told, might upset the big sponsors like Coca-Cola." SLOC was more usefully engaged in trying to prevent animal/car collisions on the main roads to the Olympic venues and trying to avert animal stampedes, anticipated as a possible result of scheduled fireworks displays.
"Electronic signs along the highway will alert drivers during the Olympics if animals are seen near the road," Associated Press writer Debbie Hummel reported. "The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Transportation, and SLOC may also give written warnings to Olympic visitors as they pick up rental cars." The road conditions were expected to be exceptionally hazardous because deep snow was causing moose, deer, and elk to move on ploughed roads, mostly at night, when moose in particular are notoriously hard to see.To assess the effects of fireworks on wildlife, Fireworks West of Logan, Utah, detonated 10 test shots near the Hogle Zoo on January 4, at request of zoo director Craig Dinsmore. The giraffes, cheetahs, and bighorn sheep reportedly had the most stressed responses. Giraffes and cheetahs apparently evolved in the Rocky Mountains, but vanished about 15,000 years ago, just as bighorn sheep arrived across the Bering land bridge from Asia. Prong-horns are the closest relatives of giraffes still in North America; University of Idaho researcher John A. Byers postulates that they developed their extraordinary speed to evade cheetahs, since no living North American predator runs even half as fast.