Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Animal rights activists
complain about gay rodeo


A cowboy tries his hand at pulling a steer during the Best Buck in the Bay gay rodeo in 2006 that was held in Woodside. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Gay animal rights activists are saddling up for their annual protest against the gay rodeo that takes place this weekend in the Russian River area.

The Best Buck in the Bay Rodeo and Festival, an annual event for LGBT cowboys and cowgirls organized by the Bay Area chapter of the Golden Gate Gay Rodeo Association, is again facing complaints from Andrew Zollman of LGBT Compassion, who likened the treatment of rodeo animals to the abuse and bullying often inflicted upon LGBT people.

Zollman's group focuses on the living conditions faced by farm animals.

"We LGBTs have been fortunate enough to be able to protect ourselves from being oppressed and abused due to being different and powerless," he said in a phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter . "Instead of becoming oppressors and abusers of others who are also different and powerless, we should show compassion and empathy for them. The least we can do for farm animals is to not subject them to additional suffering and torment for the gratuitous purpose of our own entertainment, just to prematurely end their lives for meat once they're no longer considered useful for rodeo."

Best Buck in the Bay is also facing allegations of fake sponsorship claims: Safeway and Starbucks Coffee logos initially appeared on rodeo posters and both companies were listed as official sponsors. Neither company is actually sponsoring the event, and the logos were allegedly used without permission. Both logos have since been removed from posters and from the rodeo's website.

"I just connected with our local team in San Francisco and learned that Starbucks is not a sponsor of this upcoming event," Alicia Damodaran, global communications director for Starbucks, said in an email to the B.A.R. "The Golden Gate Gay Rodeo Association seems to have unintentionally used our logo on their site and they have already connected with our local team to correct the issue."

Safeway's Brian Dowling did not respond to the B.A.R. 's request for comment.

Zollman described some of the abuses he claims are inflicted upon animals at gay rodeo events.

"Chute dogging is when animals are grabbed by the horns, and the neck is twisted around," he said. "This is most obviously the worst thing."

Animals are often provoked for the amusement of spectators, Zollman said.

"At bucking events, they tie rope around the animals abdomen and groin. The animal is already terrified from having a stranger on their back – you can see the person pulling the rope to tighten it," Zollman said.

Popper DuBray of the International Gay Rodeo Association, of which GSGRA is a member, provided its official animal welfare statement from the association's website.

"We strive to assure that our events are purposefully tailored and executed to provide animal and human participants the safest environment possible and shall act to immediately disqualify or reprimand any contestant, official, or contracted personnel found to be treating animals in an inhumane manner," the statement reads.

DuBray also said the rodeo group is familiar with Zollman's group.

"We are fully aware of the LGBT Compassion position and respect that everyone must have a cause," DuBray said in an email. "We support the passion they have for their beliefs as much as we support our passion for the traditional western lifestyle and rodeo."

Brian Helander of IGRA said that the organization monitors the animals.

"Yes, we have an animal issues committee, whose role it is to monitor and evaluate use of animals in gay rodeo," Helander said in an email. "We are proud of our record of animal care and safety and the work of the committee. There are many animals in the world that need the advocacy efforts ... the animals of gay rodeo are well cared for, loved and healthy."

The Best Buck in the Bay takes place September 12-14 at the Russian River Rodeo Grounds in Duncan Mills. For more information, visit



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