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August 23, 2011

Rodeo Shows Planned for Beijing Likely Postponed

Humane Society International

  • An anti-rodeo advocate. Xie Zheng 2011

  • Meeting to discuss the issue. Green Beagles 2011

  • A calf being roped. Diane Garcia/istock

by Peter Li

Update, August 31, 2011: The China Daily published a story confirming postponement of the planned rodeo events until at least spring 2012.

Two American companies, ZZXY Entertainment and Less is Forever More, have been criticized by 71 Chinese animal protection groups for trying to introduce rodeos into China. Richard Tucker, the founder of the latter company, went so far as to create "Rodeo China" to promote the so-called “oldest American sport” to Chinese.

By packaging rodeos as culture of the American West and instruments of education, the American sponsors succeeded in obtaining the endorsement of China’s semi-official Association of Chinese People’s Friendship with Foreign Countries. Rodeo China was launched in a press conference in April and an eight-day rodeo show was planned for early October at Beijing’s national stadium, the Bird’s Nest. But the companies’ aggressive promotion of rodeos in China seems to have backfired. 

Chinese reaction

The announcement of the intended spectacle elicited a quick response from Chinese animal protection groups. Beijing’s Capital Animal Welfare Association and the Green Beagles, partners of Humane Society International, began a three-month campaign against the proposed program. HSI helped put the Chinese advocates in touch with SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), a Chicago-based organization which campaigns against rodeos. Chinese advocates forwarded facts about rodeo cruelty and unedited videos showing animal injuries and deaths to the Chinese media and officials. The negative publicity sent a strong message to the rodeo sponsors.

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The Chinese advocates challenged all of the claims made by the show’s organizers. They rejected the idea that rodeos reflect daily life in the American West. “It is a misrepresentation of life in that part of the U.S.,” said Mm. Qin, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association. “Telling the Chinese people untruthful information about the American people is not a respectful act by the American sponsors of rodeos.”

Huili Liu, the head of the Chinese campaign against rodeos, commented, “Forcing animals in a game is no sport... a sport has to be participated in voluntarily.” With regard to the claim that rodeos are educational, the Chinese advocates believe that the opposite is true. Said Liu, “By coercing animals in rodeos and subjecting them to unnatural settings and acting in ways supposed to entertain the audience, rodeos are in fact telling the spectators that they can do anything to the weak and the disadvantaged.”

Effective advocacy

Throughout their campaign, Chinese advocates took a series of measures aimed at stopping the planned rodeo shows. They sat down with representatives of the Chinese sponsor to try to convince them that China should stay away from any ethically questionable foreign programs. They met with managers from the Bird’s Nest to express the hope that the glory of the Olympic stadium would not be tarnished by the staging of a rodeo. They confronted the American rodeo sponsors face-to-face, telling them in explicit terms that the Chinese people do not welcome moribund foreign animal cruelty acts disguised as cultural exchange programs. They urged the Australian government not to export Australian cattle to China for rodeo purposes. They appealed to the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, to cancel rodeo shows from U.S.-China exchange programs.

Promising news

This opposition has produced a hopeful result: According to a reliable source, the rodeo sponsors are considering postponing the planned shows until next year, though the U.S. companies deny that this was a result of pressure by the Chinese advocates.

Whatever the reason for it, the development is encouraging. The efforts of the Chinese advocates have not been in vain. They have vowed to continue their campaign until the rodeo shows have been cancelled permanently. They have also made it clear that Chinese animal protection groups must be consulted in future negotiations regarding international cultural exchange programs.

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Dr. Peter Li is China Specialist for HSI.