SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Activists with the animal rights group Animal Emancipation will hold a demonstration against the Santa Maria Elks Club Rodeo Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
"Rodeo's are inherently violent acts," says Animal Emancipation San Luis Obispo County director Peggy Koteen.
Koteen has been watching the rodeo for decades, but for a reason far different from most in the crowd.
"There is a lot of animal suffering involved," she says. "We need people to be aware of the cruelty and animal suffering involved in rodeo."
Advocates claim rodeo animals are often tortured. That includes animals being kept in very small cages, being thrown and violently wrestled to the ground, and using electric shocks to force them to participate.
"The way to stop animal suffering at rodeos is to stop rodeos."
The Santa Maria Elks Lodge Rodeo and Parade has been taking place for 74 years. Rodeo supporters say the animals are treated well, with each and every animal inspected by an independent veterinarian before they are allowed to participate.
"People have a lot of myths about the rodeo," says Johnna Clark, media coordinator for the event. Animal welfare and taking care of our animals is the backbone to what rodeo is, so these animals are the most well taken care of and loved animals."
That will not convince Koteen, who says she has been documenting the abuse at the rodeo for years, believing she is a voice for animals that do not have one.
"Tradition is not an excuse for animal cruelty," says Koteen.