by Edita Birnkrant
Last weekend, I stood with Friends of Animals activists and dozens of supporters to protest the violent scenes taking place in at Madison Square Garden at the Professional Bull Riders 2008 Versus International Competition. We held posters and handed out Bull Riding: An Event Guide.
Inside, bulls were being tested for steroids; outside, our demonstration was greeted by city bull-riding fans, some of them drunk, grabbing their testicles and shouting “You’re crazy!”
“I love steak!”
“Free Michael Vick!”
They swaggered and laughed, waving their cowboy hats, aiming cameras at us and our signs. Many took our flyers and ripped them up in our faces and then threw them away. Finger-pointing, red-faced cowboys told me how ignorant I was. “Yeehaw!”
Some people were respectful and were grateful to take our flyers, and asked serious questions, including passersby not attending the bull riding show.
A couple passed by, the woman reached out and took a flyer and smiled. The man turned to her, ripped the flyer out of her hand, stomped back toward me and ripped up the flyer. He glared at me triumphantly.
But aggressive reactions to our presence were not limited to men only. A drunken woman yelled, inches from my face, until the cops pulled her away.
For passing out educational flyers that depicted the reality behind the “sport” of bull-riding, such as the tight flank straps and metal spurs and electric prods that inflict anger and pain on the bulls to provoke the convulsive bucking necessary for scoring, I was called a whore.
At least two ticket-holders who, upon reading our flyers, decided that they could no longer attend the event. For them, Friends of Animals provided a critical element of disagreement with disrespect and domination portrayed as entertainment. Our continued opposition creates the possibility of a society that chooses respect over oppression.
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(Jan 9) coverage in the New York Observer: