Saturday October 7, 2000
Fowl Ropers Run Afoul Of Activists
Byline: Fritz Thompson
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Category: New Mexico
* Cowboy Symposium's second annual chicken-lassoing competition
succumbs to pressure of animal-rights group
Animal-rights activists have fried a chicken-roping contest in
There will be no second annual New Mexico Chicken Roping competition
advertised as about 10 minutes of frivolity during the Oct. 12-15
Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium.
People at United Poultry Concerns Inc. in Virginia didn't think the
idea was funny. "Stick up for chickens!" a caption on the
organization's Web site reads.
"If cowboys are going to bully birds who have done them no harm,
United Poultry Concerns will publicize their cowardice," a news
release from the organization said.
"This was not an important part of the symposium, so it was not that
hard to call it off," said Bruce Eldredge, director of the sponsoring
Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso Downs.
Eldredge said the roping was canceled "because we couldn't absolutely
guarantee that a chicken wouldn't be hurt."
"We had a chicken-roping contest last year and none of the chickens
were harmed," he said. "But if you hold it again and a chicken
accidently gets hurt, you're toast."
Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns in Machipongo, Va., said late
Friday she hadn't heard of the decision but was "delighted."
"I talked to her by telephone yesterday," Eldredge said Friday, "and
she called me cowardly, cruel and unmanly and said we were stooping
to sickly stunts. She didn't give me a chance to say much."
Eldredge said the museum received about 115 e-mails, calls and faxes
concerning the event.
"I would say about 90 percent of them were negative," he said. "Most
of them came from the Midwest and the East Coast, which doesn't mean
they can't have an opinion, too."
"We urge the museum to divorce itself from roping chickens and to
cancel the cockamaniac event immediately," the United Poultry
Concerns news release said.
Eldredge said he called off the chicken roping after conferring with
Ellen Lucas, head of the Lincoln County Humane Association. Lucas is
also a director of development at the museum.
"She said we should consider the perceptions of size; a cowboy is
bigger than a chicken," Eldredge said. "Roping a chicken is not like
roping a 200- to 300-pound steer.
"We're a privately operated museum, but we depend a lot on public
The roping event would have been conducted by Joe Rhodes, owner of
Joe's Boot Shop in Muleshoe, Texas, and chief chicken wrangler at
last year's symposium roping contest.
"Some people seem to think we're trying to hurt something," he said
by telephone Friday. "We've never hurt one yet and don't intend to."
Rhodes said he didn't dispute the decision.
"I wouldn't want to do anything that would jeopardize the museum," he
Chicken roping is done on foot by teams, with a "header," who uses a
cotton rope to lasso the chicken around the neck, and a "heeler," who
ropes the chicken by the legs.
"We don't truss them up in a little bundle, like some people say,"
He said the symposium, in its 11th year, is "the nation's leading
cowboy heritage event."
Last year, the museum had 130,000 visitors. It features Western art
and has one of the most extensive collections of carriages and other
similar wheeled vehicles.