Times Herald - Norristown, PA
Rodeo causing a ruckus
By KELLY DEVINE
WHITEMARSH - A group of local animal rights activists are returning to the LuLu Shrine Temple to demonstrate against the practice of rodeos this weekend.
The Shriners have hosted the rodeo for 18 years to raise funds for their facility. This weekend's shows are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Protestors have attended the event for several years. They rally for an hour before each show.
Marianne Bessey organized this year's demonstration and has been attending the protests for the past few years.
Bessey is also the leader of the Friends of Philly Zoo Elephants and often demonstrates and performs educational outreach against rodeos and circuses.
Bessey said she expects a handful of protestors this weekend. She said it's a hard job because the rodeo personnel and patrons aren't always receptive to their presence.
"It's always just local people who are really passionate about animals and trying to help them," Bessey said, adding that alerts had been sent out to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other organizations.
Bessey said the point of the demonstration is to educate people about the reality of the lives of the animals in the rodeo.
"It's a horrible, terribly cruel life. There's no need for it. There's plenty of family entertainment out there that doesn't involve the abuse of animals," Bessey said.
Bessey said she will have a hot-shot power mite on display that she invites anyone from the rodeo to try. She said it's a 5000-volt tool used on animals to create the bucking reaction that the crowd likes.
"They're not doing it naturally; they're doing it because of an incredibly powerful prod," she said.
Bessey also claimed that her group has video footage of someone from the rodeo using one of these inhumane devices, which she tested on herself causing her to scream in pain, on horses and bulls.
Harry Reiter, who serves as chairman of the rodeo, said a veterinarian and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are present at the show.
"Our animals are treated very well, like family," he said.
"A tremendous amount of money is invested in the livestock. We're very confident everything we do from our end is done properly. There's very strict rules as to how animals are handled."
Reiter also quoted statistics of how rare incidents with animals in rodeos are.
The demonstrators set up directly in front of the temple on the public access area with their signs.
Bessey said Whitemarsh police will be attending this year as well to remind people of the group's right to protest and keep things peaceful.
While Bessey said the Shriners can be rude to her group, she said the demonstrators usually receive a positive response from the passersby.
"For most part, people driving by or stopping by give honks and thumbs up," she said. "I think a majority of people don't go to rodeos or circuses and agree it's cruel to animals."
Bessey said protesting is not enjoyable, but it's "not even comparable to what animals have to go through."
"They can't do anything about it, but we can try," she said.
Reiter said the rodeo attracts 4,000 annually, including many return customers, underprivileged children and veterans.
Reiter said attractions at this year's rodeo include the world's smallest Brahma bull ridden by a 10-year-old and Mike Moore, the number eight-ranked bullrider in the world.
ŠThe Times Herald 2007