Last week I mentioned about the possible use of electric cattle prods on horses in USA rodeo shows. Over the next two days an extraordinary 27 people e-mailed to assure me that this practise no longer took place. I was heartened but not convinced. Then Barnmice received an e-mail from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) with an official statement entitled PRCA Livestock Welfare Statement – Electric Cattle Prod:
“PRCA rules allow for the use of a livestock prod as a safe, effective and humane way to move livestock. Additionally, PRCA rules allow the use of a prod to facilitate the safe exit from the bucking chutes for horses that may have the tendency to stall. In order for this process to take place the owner of the animal, the rodeo judge and the contestant must agree.
The livestock prod is powered by flashlight batteries with similar stimulation as an electric livestock or pet fence and allows for harmless encouragement of the horse to leave the chute. It does not make a horse buck, nor does it effect the competition once the horse and competitor have safely exited the bucking chute.”
A LOOK BEHIND THE WORDS
So that’s OK then. They do
use it, but it’s all about ‘animal welfare’, ‘safety’, ‘agreement’, ‘pets’, and of course not forgetting ‘harmless encouragement’. A lovely group of soft, cuddly words, ideal for sending a strong subliminal message that all is well in the world of rodeo horses. But let’s look behind these words:
“PRCA rules allow for the use of a livestock prod as a safe, effective and humane way to move livestock.”
One of the first strategies for any debater or courtroom lawyer is to create a link by association to something that the audience will agree with. But it is nothing but a slight of hand that many will immediately see through. I am not talking about moving groups of livestock (cattle and pigs) in transit or on the farm, where the traditional method of using a cattle prod is apparently felt necessary and acceptable. I am talking about moving a single horse from the chute into a rodeo ring, with a sensitive animal who shows much greater reaction to such prods than cattle and pigs . It is no different from using an electric prod on Moorlands Totillas to get him into the dressage
arena, or on Hickstead to get him into the show jumping
ring….and who would find this acceptable?
“Additionally, PRCA rules allow the use of a prod to facilitate the safe exit from the bucking chutes for horses that may have the tendency to stall.”
Facilitate is another gentle word…a great and important word for all coaches and trainers…but as used here it is a euphemism. In truth the word that should be used is forced….and I am reminded of Alois Podjaisky’s famous dictum ‘anything forced or unnatural cannot be beautiful.’ The attachment of the word ‘safe’ to exit suggests that otherwise the exit could be dangerous…but the horse knows well that the only danger and discomfort is after they have left the chute which is why they ‘stall’….another gentle euphemism for ‘dig their toes in and refuse to come out’ unless they are given an electric shock, which we all know horses hate.
“In order for this process to take place the owner of the animal, the rodeo judge and the contestant must agree.”
I am sure the horses are comforted by this allusion that there is some independent monitoring going on here. It is a business and in order to get a return they are all dependent on the horse performing in the ring. They are dependent partners in the process.
“The livestock prod is powered by flashlight batteries with similar stimulation as an electric livestock or pet fence”
This is stretching the meaning of ‘similar’ to the limit and the cosy mention of flashlight batteries is yet another slight of hand. 9 volt flashlight batteries even power stun guns! You have probably all heard of stun guns, which are used by the police and armed forces to incapacitate people. So quoting from my encyclopaedia… “Conventional stun guns have a fairly simple design. They are about the size of a flashlight, and they work on ordinary 9-volt batteries. The circuitry includes multiple transformers, components that boost the voltage in the circuit, typically to between 20,000 and 150,000 volts, and reduce the amperage. It also includes an oscillator, a component that fluctuates current to produce a specific pulse pattern of electricity. This current charges a capacitor. The capacitor builds up a charge, and releases it to the electrodes, the "business end" of the circuit."
Now an electric cattle prod is NOT
designed to give this level of shock, but it is much more than a normal livestock electric fence, which would be bad enough anyway. The power source and use of a capacitor in these cattle prods is confirmed in the advertising for one of these gadgets: "The Hot-Shot Power-Mite features 'Compact' Hot-Shot circuitry and capacitor discharge 4,500 volt prod. Uses two 9 volt alkaline batteries. Overall length 6 1/4 inches.
Rodeos use the Hot-Shot device in defiance of the manufacturer's own recommendations: "The Hot-Shot Power-Mite livestock prod is designed, manufactured, and marketed for use to aid in the movement of cattle and hogs. Hot-Shot does not condone the use of the Power-Mite or any Hot-Shot electric prod for use on horses, including horses in a rodeo environment."
“and allows for harmless encouragement of the horse to leave the chute.”
If it is harmless encouragement it would be in general use in other equestrian sports …it is not positive encouragement it is bullying.
“It does not make a horse buck, nor does it effect the competition once the horse and competitor have safely exited the bucking chute.”
Once again the word ’safely’ tacked on to a misleading statement …the bottom line is that in many cases it makes the competition possible. Without it the spectators have an empty ring and no competition. Therefore it effects the competition directly.
So strip away the comforting wooly overcoat from the PRCA official statement and this is actually what the PRCA are saying:
PRCA rules allow the use of an electric prod to force the exit from the bucking chutes for horses that refuse to enter the ring because they strongly dislike or fear being in the ring. The owner of the animal, the rodeo judge and the contestant are all complicit in this action.
Using the same mechanics as a stun gun the electric prod is powered by 9 volt batteries and a capacitor which give the horse a powerful shock that makes the chute even less appealing to the horse than the ring. The competition could not take place without the horse leaving the chute, in which case we would all be out of a job.
However possibly no one needs to be out of a job, because horses might be taught to buck and perform willingly without electric shocks and bucking straps, simply because most horses are fundamentally so willing and easy to train….if the trainers are knowledgeable, methodical and humane. This is up to the PRSA to prove possible.
Nonetheless the e-mail response from the PRCA appears to be misleading and disingenuous. We all use horses, and by association with another equine organization that approves the use of electric prods in these circumstances we are all the poorer for it. We need to find our inner tiger and publicly reject the use of these devices and substitute ignorance with education. Onwards. William.