By Valeria Howard-Cunningham, Special to California Black Media Partners
Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield claims that I torture animals.
Blumenfield, the author of a motion that will ban rodeo and equestrian events in Los Angeles, says in plain English in a new ordinance in front of the City Council that I and people like me who participate in rodeo events practice “inhumane” treatment of animals.
He says in plain English that I and people like me “encourage aggressive behavior in animals and inflict injury, pain and suffering on animals.” As a rodeo lover, I take these false allegations personally. I do not participate in any of the activities harming animals that Blumenfield alleges.
Neither does Kanesha Jackson, a proud Black young woman who is a 5-time Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) All Around Cowgirl Champion, an 8-time BPIR Event Champion, and mother of an upcoming rodeo champion named Kortney Solomon. She is also a farm owner who breeds championship horses.
Neither does Tory Johnson, a proud Black man, ranch owner, and one of our champion winners for many years. Or Krishan Adair, another proud Black woman and rodeo champion. And neither did the cowhands in the Old West, where one in four were Black men. Nor Bill Pickett, the legendary Black cowboy, and namesake of my organization.
They, along with four generations of Black cowboys and cowgirls, inspire me and our audience to be part of the rodeo world. We have created a Black rodeo culture contributing to the history of the American West by practicing the sport of rodeo with affection towards the animals. For the cowboy and cowgirl, the animals are their best friends.
The BPIR has created a culture our community is proud of, one which keeps kids off the street, inspires hard work and goal setting, and helps people to connect with themselves and their emotions through animals.
Blumenfield’s proposed ordinance, rooted in lies and misinformation about rodeo, threatens to take all these positive activities away from the community in Los Angeles.
Excuse my directness, but I would ask: Is this what the Los Angeles City Council wants to do or intend to do, especially in the world we live in today?
The proposed ordinance is written so poorly that it would only allow some equipment to be used where the State of California specifically bans it to ensure animal safety. Although the confusion caused by this may help high-priced lawyers, it doesn’t help animals one bit.
In addition, the ordinance would ban the very equipment we use to train and assist our animals in the safest way possible, including lassos and flank straps – neither of which hurt animals in any way.
When you understand what the ordinance really does, you must ask why Blumenfield is pursuing it, after not bothering to obtain the facts and truth — or to understand how we care for our animals or how our equipment is used.
He did not ask the most diverse coalition ever created in Western Sports, formed to help educate lawmakers on a sport they’re not familiar with, about how we care for our animals daily. He didn’t ask our veterinarians, who are professionally dedicated to animal health and safety, about how all our rodeo equipment is used humanely all the time.
Blumenfeld’s actions of not educating himself to know the difference between truth and fiction lead me to ask, what the purpose of his agenda is, which is not the agenda of the majority.
The truth is often hard to find these days, and very few have regard for it. We implore the LA City Council to stand up for the truth and do what is right in recognizing they’re processing a harmful and unnecessary ordinance.
It is imperative that the City Council vote this ordinance down, or to make the changes outlined by the coalition for our elected officials, so that our community may continue to enjoy the culture and unifying sport of rodeo practiced humanely and aligned with California State law already on the books.
The City Council cannot ignore the will of the voters. Or the truth. Thank you for letting me speak it.
About the Author
Valeria Howard-Cunningham is President of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo.