Is California on its way to banning rodeos? Behind the growing movement to buck the event

Earlier this fall, Alameda County supervisors officially banned the practice of “wild cow milking” — a timed event in which a lactating beef cow, unused to human handling, has been wrangled from the fields and brought to an arena.

There, she is separated from her calf, tossed into a rodeo ring, and attacked by three or four men who rope her, pull her tail, wrestle her to the ground and try to hold her still while one of them grabs her teats and milks her.

The move comes three years after the county banned “mutton busting” — an event in which small children are placed on the backs of scared, unsaddled sheep and try to stay on while the sheep bucks, kicks and jumps to knock the child off.

“It’s animal abuse,” said Eric Mills, coordinator for Oakland’s Action for Animals, an animal welfare organization. “It’s unconscionable to treat animals this way. Can you imagine if they did this to dogs? No one would be OK with it. So why is it OK to do this to baby calves, horses and cows?”

For those who admire a “western lifestyle,” a good rodeo performance highlights the skill, bravery and strength of a talented cowboy or cowgirl — a rider deft with a lasso, in control of wild, bucking animals, and laser-focused on a chaotic, seemingly uncontrollable task at hand. It’s this display of western grandeur, hard work, grit and sportsmanship that has likely made the Peacock series “Yellowstone” such a major hit.

But for others, the rodeo is a horror show in which terrified animals are chased around an arena, kicked by strangers, tossed onto the ground with potentially bone-crushing impact — all while loud music is blared and dozens, if not hundreds, of people yell, scream and clap from the nearby stands.

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