An open letter to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors

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A child competes in goat tying. — Unparalleled Suffering Photography/contributed photo

Dear Supervisors,

I wanted to share some thoughts about the meeting on Jan. 7. It seems clear that the Johnson County Agricultural Association has ignored your requests for them to do more of their own fundraising. This has been happening for several years. Per your discussion, you agreed that you have been enabling them. I would ask you to consider reducing the funding this year. That might get their attention.

They were given $103,000 in 2017 and I believe asked for more in 2018, but you did not raise it. This did not change their behavior, as they asked for $110,000 for 2019, and most of you felt their application did not show justification for that increase.

You also said that they only require a one-time membership fee of $25. It could easily be an annual fee and raise nearly $10,000 for the association. For example, the annual fee for Bur Oak Land Trust is $40. If the Johnson County Ag Association asked that fee of their 350 members, they could raise about $14,000 a year.

You might consider a block grant of $93,000 to the Ag Association this year. I think that might be a catalyst for change. It should not be that much of a shock, because you have been asking them for years to participate in fundraising.

It sounds like you will put in writing a condition that admission and parking to the Johnson County Fair will be free. You considered adding a condition that specified no kids’ rodeo, then you mentioned maybe just saying that they would not be allowed to spend the money on the kids’ rodeo or promote the rodeo with the money.

My question is, why would you tell them they could not use the money for the kids’ rodeo, but allow the grant money to be used to make admission and parking at the fair free? You are essentially acknowleding there is something negative about the kids’ rodeo, but are endorsing and promoting the fair, and the kids’ rodeo is part of the fair. Isn’t that a mixed message? I really believe it would be more simple and clear to just make a condition that they could not have a kids’ rodeo as part of the fair.

They could instead have a bike rodeo (or some other event). This would fit in with the Jingle Cross Cyclo-Cross Festival that they host every year, and would be an event that everyone could be proud of. It would fit our community values, and I think it could attract a more diverse group of kids. I bet some of the bike shops would be happy to help with ideas and maybe even volunteer.

The kids’ rodeo is actually a fairly recent addition to the fair. Brenda Christner, the fairgrounds business manager, said she thought it started four or five years ago. I tried to do some research and it looked to me like it might have started in 2011. They could easily replace it with a bike rodeo. They wouldn’t even have to say they are ending the rodeo, just modifying it. Here is a link with some event ideas.

I really think this would be a vast improvement. Please consider these ideas as your discussions continue. Thank you.

Lynn Gallagher, Solon

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  1. Rodeo is a Crime Against Nature. And to involve impressionable young children in the abuse is a crime against animals and children alike. Parents and promoters alike should be cited for both animal cruelty and child endangerment. Such events merely serve to build an audience for the abuse. Follow the money.

    And consider this statement from world-renowned animal behaviorist, Dr. Temple Grandin (Colorado State University):

    “The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it’s worse than pain.”

    Be aware that all animals used/abused in the rodeo are PREY animals. As such, they fear for their very lives when roped, ridden, wrestled, chased, jumped on, dragged or otherwise handled roughly. What does this say about us as a supposed “humane”society, pray? And speaking of praying, where is the local religious community on this issue of ethics, morality and compassion? Ironically, there’s a group calling itself “Cowboys for Christ”–I can’t believe that Jesus would approve of this abuse of His Father’s Creation…..

  2. Exposing children and allowing them to participate in animal domination and abuse is teaching them that living creatures don’t matter. As a former prosecutor, we all know that violent criminals like serial killers begin by abusing animals as children. This is the wrong message for kids. Also allowing children to participate in events like mutton busting and goat tying can put them at risk for serious injuries. A young child accidentally got some arena dirt in his mouth during one of these child events and almost died. It is time to end the abuse of kids and animals in rodeos.

  3. And a P.S. – Here’s a statement worth sharing. From Tom Hirsig, CEO, Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, in the July 27, 2018 WYOMING TRIBUNE EAGLE:

    “If it gets to the point where people think rodeo is inhumane or cruel, they quit coming, and then we’re out of business.”

    Clearly, anyone who thinks rodeo is NOT “inhumane or cruel” is in need of some serious therapy. As Gandhi famously noted, “The greatness of a country and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” A sentiment shared by Pope Francis, Cesar Chavez, the Dalai Lama and others.

    Legislation to outlaw these cruelties should be introduced every year, in every state. Until that happy day, boycott all rodeos and their corporate sponsors & advertisers.

  4. Rodeos are no longer relevant, especially the events that are cruel to the animals and dangerous to children. We need to teach our next generation to respect and cherish the animals, the world around them, and especially themselves. These events have no place in a working ranch. It is a money-making event, pure and simple.

    Well-stated, Lynn and Eric, you are incredible advocates and much appreciated.

  5. The photo says it all. A child sitting on top very young goat, tying it up as the baby goat cries. Could anyone be so insensitive, so uncaring, so dull-witted as to miss the rank animal abuse? The kid’s face is blurred for her protection. The animals in this bogus “sport” are the ones in desperate need of protection, and they get none. This is unconscionable.

  6. Thank you for the letter, Lynn, and LV for publishing it. We need to build a compassionate world together, and one important step toward that is nurturing compassion in our children. There are many ways of entertaining ourselves without harming animals and children. Get rid of the kid’s rodeo. Our tax money should not go toward such cruel form of entertainment.

  7. Thank you, Ms. Gallagher.

    Anyone with a conscience condemns cruelty to animals, and there is no debate: Rodeos are cruel.

  8. Removal of the cruel kids rodeo should be a condition of Johnson County Ag Association (JCAA) receiving financial assistance from Johnson County.
    Any funds given to JCAA, despite any conditions placed, enables the kids rodeo to continue.

    Additionally, a condition of any funding should be increased fundraising efforts by the recipient. Charging a fee to attend and/or for parking is reasonable and expected.
    What event can anyone attend these days that offers both free parking and attendance?

    The majority of taxpayers are being asked to fund something that benefits the minority.
    Shouldn’t taxpayer money support events and issues that benefit the majority of those paying for it?

    Not only does the kids rodeo involve and appeal to a vast minority of Johnson County residents, it keeps others from attending.
    The fair should offer events of interest to the majority of Johnson County residents, not a select few.

  9. i’m guessing you all live in iowa city and don’t hunt either.hippies. iowa city is a small representation of the state of iowa as you could tell by the elections. it’s unfortunate for johnson county to be so largely represented by the city of iowa city. let the rodeo continue!! make sure to warn your cat before you walk into a room. you don’t want to scare them either….. it’s not hurting a darn thing…if the johnson county fair wasn’t held in iowa city this would’t even be a issue. (shake my head at you all) **side note. i do agree with part of the money/funding raising part of the article** maybe a more appropriate event would be to have it in the ped mall and see who ran race through there the fastest without having someone beg you for money??

  10. BRAVO Lynn Gallagher for your letter. Rodeos are disgustingly cruel and violent. Exposing children to the bullying of terrified animals is nothing short of SHAMEFUL. Encouraging children to chase, tackle, hog tie innocent goats and other animals is simply disgusting. Rodeos have a very well documented history of significant cruelty with resulting catastrophic injuries to the animals (to the humans too, but who cares, they have a CHOICE to participate). Shame on all of you scumbags who find this entertaining.

  11. This is extremely misleading. That photo was not taken at the Johnson County Fair, as Goat Tying is no longer practiced at the Family Rodeo. The events are mutton busting, barrel racing, pole racing, and bull riding.

    The weight limits for the mutton busting (younger kids riding sheep) are strictly adhered to, and spurs are not allowed. The sheep are switched out frequently and are not harmed. Barrel and pole racing are done on horseback, and kids work very hard with their horses all year to become accomplished riders capable of competing. Bulls may have a bucking strap to encourage a strong buck, but is merely annoying, not painful to the bull. The bull is huge in size and weight compared to the person riding it. Don’t think for one moment that the bulls you see are not cared for. A good bucking bulls are extremely valuable and treated as such.

    These are sports that encourage rigorous activity, good sportsmanship, and in the case of the horseback riding, team work and deep love and bond between a kid and their animal.

    The author of the letter is against 4H, FFA, and the fair in general, and as such does not want to see money go to the Ag Association. In a private letter to her supporters, she stated too much money goes to “4H/FFA stuff” and “lots of people aren’t interested in the fair.” The goal of 4H is to cultivate citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills. Why should this not be supported?

    People complain about the young generation, too much screen time, etc. However, they then argue against traditions like 4H and the county fair that get kids outside, working hard, making friends and doing community service. In my opinion, this is a good use of tax payer dollars.

  12. My oldest kid is a town dwelling member of the 4H Horse and Pony club and competes on her horse in barrels and poles. My youngest kid is a member of the Horse and Pony Clover Kids Club since she is too young to compete at the fair. I would encourage anyone against this grant to come and visit the club or come to a show. Both of my kids have learned amazing life lessons working and taking care of horses. It takes a ton of hard work and a lot of respect between kids/horses to be successful. And of note—the Horse and Pony Club is accessible to any kid in Johnson County. One of the leaders free-leases her horses to kids to be able to participate if they don’t have a horse. The rodeo is an event that is part of the culmination of a year of hard work. 4H is amazing— kids get outside, volunteer in their community and kids see the reward of hard work. The Supervisors should support the fair.

  13. If one wishes to end animal cruelty, then supporting groups such as 4H and the Johnson County Agricultural Association and their activities, would be the prudent course of action. These organizations consistantly promote responsible stewardship of nature and animals. Through active participation by children in these groups, they are learning valuable life skills while developing a strong connecting bond between animals and humans. Fairs, shows and yes, children rodeos, are valuable tools to encourage more children to participate in a fun, safe, and responsible environment.

    Having worked at a no-kill animal shelter in the past I have seen the deprevity and horrible actions of humans towards innocent animals. I am also an advid supporter of the well being of animals. I have friends who have been or have children who are currently part of 4H and other similar organizations and they are true friends of all animals. At the fairs and various shows, their horses and other animals are extremely well taken care of and more importantly loved as members of their own family.

    At a time when children’s extracurricular activities can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, supporting respectable organizations with funding to help keep fees affordable for all children and families, should always be supported. While I respect the opinion of the author in their letter, I question their true motive in stopping a harmless activity which promotes a positive balance between animals and humans. It is clear, the impression the author gives of the children’s rodeo is inconsistant with reality. Their own personal bias and political agenda clouding their one sided efforts to the point of preventing an activity which supports the same goals. If their goals is truly about the animals, that is.

    It is sad, in this day in age, where people feel it is their prerogative to ruin the positive activities of others. Where they feel it is necessary to create a problem/issue where one does not exist. Where creating a false sense of urgency, wrapped in the shroud of one persons misguded personal agenda, can actually eliminate a positive, rewarding experience for children and their connection to other living creatures. We can only hope the Supervisors can see through the personal agendas, and continue to support and promote 4H and the Johnson County Agricultural Association.

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