Andrew Kirschner -- the 2012 Volunteer of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County -- got an email recently asking about volunteers for an upcoming event the club was holding with Davie Pro Rodeo.
It's unclear how long the rodeo and the local club have done events together, but Kirschner says he's volunteered at the Broward club for three years and this is the first he'd heard of the rodeo doing events there. It set him off. So he called the Boys & Girls Club.
"I told them rodeos really glorify animal abuse and teach kids that it's acceptable to pick on animals for fun," he says. "I don't think that kind of attitude is right in today's society, let alone a fundraiser for an organization whose mission is to inspire children to be caring, productive members of the community."
Kirschner offered a solution: partner with him to organize cruelty-free fundraisers instead of places like the rodeo.
"They expressed they were told by the people that run the rodeo that they treat the animals kindly," he tells New Times. "That is very common that certain people at the circus or rodeo or at a place like SeaWorld are going to suggest that they treat the animals kindly so that they can ward off any criticism, but after speaking with the people at PETA and doing some of my own research to confirm what goes on at the rodeo, I confirmed that there's all kinds of injuries these animals sustain: bruising of organs, hemorrhaging, fractures, ripped tendons.
"Generally speaking, to get the animal to 'buck' like that, to go wild like that, they use electric prods, planks, bucking straps, spurs, and they gouge the animal or wound them in sensitive parts of their skin, and that turns what is normally a tame, docile animal into a fierce, aggressive, wild animal. There's nothing kind about that process."
Kirschner then partnered with PETA and sent out the following letter, sharing it with the media:
Matthew J. Organ Executive Vice President Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County
Dear Mr. Organ:
I'm writing to you on behalf of my friends at PETA and as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County (BGCBC) 2012 Volunteer of the Year to urge you to sever your partnership with the Davie Pro Rodeo. As a longtime dedicated BGCBC volunteer, I know that your mission to enable all young people to be caring and responsible citizens conflicts with an event that glorifies cruelty to animals. There are plenty of other fundraising opportunities that can help you raise money without promoting the abuse of animals.
Rodeos hurt animals and offend anyone who objects to cruelty to animals. They teach children that it's all right to torment animals for entertainment. And as for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's rulebook, the reality is that these "rules" are rarely--if ever--enforced and still don't mitigate the animals' panic and cowboys' rough handling. In rodeos, normally gentle animals are traumatized and provoked into "wild" behavior with the use of spurs, tail-twisting, electric prods, and straps cinched tightly around their abdomens. This sends them into a bucking frenzy, which can cause the animals to fall, crash into gates and other obstructions, and break their legs and backs--as you can see in this video footage. And it's not just bulls who suffer: In 2012, a horse who was used in bucking events at the Davie Pro Rodeo had to be euthanized after crashing into a fence and breaking a leg. When animals used in rodeos are too old, tired, or injured to continue, they end up in the slaughterhouse.
The BGCBC's vital efforts to improve the lives of young people shouldn't come at the expense of animal welfare. For the sake of these animals and the children your volunteers work hard to inspire to be compassionate, I strongly urge you to end your partnership with the rodeo immediately and replace it with cruelty-free fundraisers such as movie nights, bowling, auto shows, square-dancing competitions, or community service projects. I'd be happy to help you brainstorm more ideas. Thank you for your consideration.
Calls to the Boys & Girls Club were not immediately returned.
For his part, Kirschner understands that the Boys & Girls Club probably won't cut ties with the rodeo this year, but he hopes this isn't an issue again next year. "I'm not upset with the Boys & Girls Club; I just think they were misinformed. And hopefully after you give people the information and time to think about it, they'll find events that better align with their mission. And if they don't, I'll continue to speak out when that happens."