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Despite objections, Ranch Rodeo took place at Crawford County Fair
Hestetune rides
RIDER KEVIN HESTETUNE chases this calf toward the waiting trailer as he watches the movements of his two teammates. Hestetune and a host of other experienced rodeo competitors showed the crowd what they could do while mounted on a horse.

CRAWFORD COUNTY - There was a clash of cultures at the Crawford County Fair on Sunday morning, when three animal rights activists showed up to protest the ranch rodeo event.

The three protesters were stationed at the entrance to fairgrounds in Gays Mills along Highway 131. Most of the entering rodeo contestants appeared to ignore the protesters except for some long stares and a few craned necks.

The protesters said they were against having the rodeo at the fair because it was cruel to animals–in this case particularly calves that would be roped in at least one of the events. The animal rights activists made it clear that they supported the fair, but not the rodeo. The three from Vernon County said they had previously protested rodeo events held in conjunction with Wild West Days in Viroqua, as well as another rodeo event in Vernon County.
Rodeo protesters
ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIV-ISTS held signs criticizing rodeos at the entrance to the Crawford County Fair where a ranch rodeo was held on Sunday, August 25.

The signs the protesters held read, “Rodeos Are Cruel And Abusive,” “Roping Baby Cows Is Sick,” “Animals Are Not For Entertainment” and “Terrorizing An Animal Is Abuse.”

While the rodeo crowd entering the fairgrounds appeared to be ignoring the protesters, they had in fact noticed their presence. When questioned about it later, most rodeo participants and their fans viewed the protesters as misinformed. 

Several rodeo participants described efforts by the rodeos to make the events safe for the animals–including rules and regulations about roping calves. They noted the rules prohibit ropers from roping a single front leg, which could lead to injuries for the calf–among other things.

The protesters had literature with them describing the injuries caused to animals at rodeos. One glossy one-page handout was prepared by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

The PETA handout quoted Dr. J.K. Hardy, identified as a Texas veterinarian and occasional steer-roper, on his ‘practice’ sessions.

“I keep 30 head of cattle around for practice, at $200 a head,” Dr. Hardy said.  “You can cripple three or four in afternoon….it gets to be a pretty expensive hobby.”

The information included in the PETA handout seemed to be in stark contrast to what Todd Peterson had to say about calf injuries at rodeos. Peterson, from Lanesboro, Minnesota supplied the 30 yearling calves for the Crawford County Fair Ranch Rodeo on Sunday.

Peterson, the owner of C&T Livestock, said that he has about 200 cattle that he uses to supply rodeos. He rotates the groups he takes to rodeos–resting them between appearances. 

“They don’t get hurt,” Peterson said. “There are rules and regulations to protect them from getting hurt.” 

Peterson said that anyone who was torturing the calves would be disqualified and might be asked to leave the event.

Needless to say, the animal right protesters had a different view of the situation. They spoke, but declined to provide their last names.

Melissa said rodeos constituted animal abuse and there were medical injuries especially to claves.

Kent, another protester, claimed animal abuse covers the activity o=at the rode.

“Basically what happens with the animals is they’re using them to enter the even and eventually they will eat them, Kent said. He is a vegan and does not eat meat.

“Calves are just like puppies,” Linda another protester said. “We don't treat puppies that way. Why do we favor some animals?"

The comparison between puppies and claves was not completely accurate. While both are immature animals, a yearling calf weighs around 500 pounds. 

A rodeo contestant entering the fairgrounds observed the protesters was obviously irritated by the presence of the protesters. However when asked about it she declined to comment.

“I have my own comment on that, but I’m not saying anything about it,” she said.

The Ranch Rodeo Coordinator Amy Nichols, a Sparta resident, said protesters had sent a letter to the county seeking to have the rodeo cancelled.

As the rodeo was bout to start, Nichols took the time to respond to the protests.

“I believe that with any sport there are pros and cons,” Nichols said. When animals are involved you have to be very conscious of providing care and humane treatment.”

The Ranch Rodeo Coordinator explained that the event makes sure the cattle have water and are rotated so calves are never run without a rest.

Nichols noted that there were m=national champions competing at the ranch rodeo at this year’s fair also with local kids it’s a real family environment.

Nichols first exposure to competing in the rodeo was participating with here family in a team-penning event in Viola. 

“It brings the family together,” Nichols said. “ We all want the best for the animals.”

It should be noted when invited to watch the rodeo for themselves, the protesters declined the invitation.