Disclaimer: These words are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stampede or its affiliates.
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Why am I not surprised? It looks like Tommy Lee took a page out of his ex-wife’s ‘play book’ on how to stay relevant in the eyes of one’s fans – – – become a celebrity endorser for PETA. [*head shake*]
Today, Mötley Crüe rocker Tommy Lee submitted a letter to Premier Redford asking for the Calgary Stampede’s chuckwagon races be cancelled, “…horses [are] killed year after year,” he says. Hmmm… I wonder where Tommy gets his info from? Did he pick a random factoid from the “PETA hat of nonsense”, perhaps? Tommy, only 50 horses have died out of an estimated 75,000 that have participated in Stampedes over the past three decades. This number represents ‘a percentage of a percentage of a percentage’ based upon total race starts.
You might recall that last year I took PETA and Pamela Anderson to task over the same kind of drivel. It really burns my britches when celebrities adopt a cause, push a political agenda (amplified by ego or other personal motivations) and see fit to misrepresent or malign good people and good practices (I see it in agriculture all the time). Flanking her friends at PETA and another Stampede-critic Bob Barker, Pamela Anderson hit the headlines after the tragic accident on the track last year and petitioned the Premier of Alberta to ban the sport (check out my Dear Pam letter, July 2012).
PETA (and its celebrity sidekicks) have absolutely NO clue as to what goes on in the chuckwagon world. I had the opportunity to visit the chuckwagon barns at the Stampede last year and witnessed first-hand how well these magnificent horses are cared for. Chuckwagon drivers spend hours every day with their horses – feeding, grooming, washing and caring for them. The sport of chuckwagon racing has an extensive history (with the Stampede and beyond) and there are incredibly strong familial links in the chuckwagon community. These people work together, play together and have developed working and sporting protocols that are dedicated to maintaining high standards in the sport and in animal care. And these protocols and standards are constantly improving and evolving. Horses are a chuckwagon driver’s life. I don’t know any cowboy (or cowgirl, for that matter) whose thoughts don’t often return to their horse(s) throughout the day. These people love their horses. They, like all people that bring their animals to the Stampede, care deeply about animal welfare and well-being.
I have been studying PETA – as an organization – for several years. Their business and organizational mandates have changed considerably over the past two decades.
Where once the organization really did some terrific things, PETA is now focused more on building its arsenal of celebrity endorsers and less on caring for the animals. This might explain PETA’s 90%+ euthanization rates (they got themselves into some (criminal) hot water back in 2005).
PETA supporters often respond to comments regarding its euthanization rates by saying that those animals were so sick from neglect or so badly beaten that they *had* to be euthanized. Ok…I get that. But if that’s the case, why isn’t PETA using its massive resources (reported revenues of US$42 million in 2011) to go after *those* nasty buggers that *do* abuse animals? There is NO evidence whatsoever that the organization dedicates any funding to ensuring that these abusers are brought to justice. Sure, PETA tries to sell itself as an animal welfare organization. But it spends less than one percent of its multi-million dollar budget actually helping animals. PETA is a lobbying organization – plain and simple **(see note below). It’s in the business of creating publicity stunts. In other words, creating controversy where none exists.
Statistics show that risks to an animal in the sport of chuckwagon racing are minuscule relative to the values that are extracted by the equine athletes themselves. According to a friend of mine, thoroughbreds are the “unruly teenagers” of the horse world. They are high energy animals, they are athletes and they are always ready to run. That’s what they are born and bred for. They have a great quality of life in the sport of chuckwagons.
So, PETA (and Tommy Lee), you need to do your homework! These horses are very well cared for and the Calgary Stampede adheres to the highest of standards when it comes to animal care and welfare. By the way, Premier Redford is in no position to even *think* about cancelling the chuckwagons. That would be political suicide for her in this part of the world. But it doesn’t really matter anyway, does it PETA, because we all know that this is just another publicity stunt, right?!
Pam and Tommy aren’t the first celebrity PETA endorsers and they won’t be the last. It doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that…
1) PETA is, for all intents and purposes, a ‘corporation’ with a bottom-line goal to maximize donor dollars in order to fund publicity stunts. Statistics don’t matter to PETA (nor does the health and welfare of animals if their euthanization rates are any indication). Optics are what matters to PETA.
2) Celebrities, like Pam and Tommy Lee, also have bottom-line motivated ‘political’ agendas. Celebrities are always looking for ways to remain relevant in the eyes of the fans. They write books, they might change their image as a way re-invent their career and sometimes – YES – sometimes they become spokespersons for organizations like PETA (they do get paid for this work, by the way).
If you get a chance to, read this great blog by dairy farmer, Carrie Mess. PETA and Ryan Gosling together think that they know something about de-horning in dairy cattle. Carrie thinks otherwise:
“So, in the meantime [Ryan Gosling] how about you stick to making movies that I probably won’t watch and I will keep taking care of my cows. No hard feelings. I’m sure your agent thought this whole PETA thing sounded like a great idea but you might want to let your agent know that PETA has the same amount of respect out here in the real world as the National Enquirer has in your world.” – Carrie Mess
On final note – as you are sitting in the grandstands at the Calgary Stampede this July, cheering on our chuckwagons, supporting our community and our western lifestyle, remember this – – – PETA is somewhere close by, hanging in the ‘wings’, rubbing its collective palms together just waiting for an accident to happen. That is, after all, what will help PETA to achieve its mandate. Sad, isn’t it?
**PETA does not have charitable tax status in Canada because of its business activities so it operates under TIDES Canada Foundation. TIDES was accused of money laundering by EthicalOil.org in August of last year. I am unsure of what the status of that is at this point.
Support your local animal shelters!!!