rodeos kill animals

I protested a lot this weekend. There was a bull riding event at Madison Square Garden, and there were a bunch of activists who went out to demonstrate for three nights. It was extremely cold, and the crowd was pretty brutal. Lots of typical “mmmm bacon” type comments flying around, which we are all used to, but especially at the end of the day on Sunday, the activists were subjected to some hyper aggression from these cowboy dudes in the form of being charged by a man on a horse (on 34th street in Manhattan, no less), and I was grabbed by one of the guys and thrown on the ground. Literally.

I wasn’t hurt, and at the time I was able to just let it go, but the aftershock of the entire experience is pretty dark, honestly.

I spoke to two different cops after the incident, and both were quite apathetic about the fact that I had been physically attacked like this. Several people caught the incident on video as well as the aggressive, lasso-weilding cowboy on the horse who was charging us on the street. The New York City police refused to watch or to take our reports. Why are the police not protecting the protesters? And how is it possibly okay for someone to pick up another citizen and throw them on the ground without any intervention from the police?

I woke up really late yesterday – well, got out of bed that is. Neck tension, massive headache, and… malaise. Is that word as dramatic as it sounds? I found myself kind of fogged over and lethargic most of the day. I often overlook these things, but as I dig in more deeply to my activist work this year, I am finding it helpful to acknowledge this stuff and try to process it somehow. We see some shit as animal activists, and we are surrounded by a society who thinks what we are doing is, at worst, an attempt to deny them their “personal choice” to perpetuate violence against animals, and, at best, laughable and an idiotic waste of time.

This bull riding event is a really interesting concentration of what we experience every day as vegans in a non-vegan world. We are taking a stand, begging people to stop their violence against animals. Ticket holders heading into Madison Square Garden mocking us, flipping us off, screaming in our faces, laughing at us, etc. Then, the casual passersby, ignoring us or subtly rolling their eyes. And of course, the direct aggression of the people after the show, assaulting and threatening protesters while the police did nothing to protect us, or to hold the aggressors accountable for their actions.

Today when I woke up, I realized how dark yesterday was. You don’t always recognize depression and hopelessness while it’s happening, but this morning I knew it had lifted. I feel better, and I can work today without that dark cloud. Even as I write this, though, i think about what these animals are going through. Those bulls are being transported in frost covered trucks to the next location where they will be bullied and exploited. That horse that charged us is probably still as confused and frightened as he or she looked that day on 34th Street. Those animals do not have access to their own will anymore. They probably never have. I had a moment of that while being lifted and thrown by the redneck dude, but that was only a few seconds before I was back on my feet. That’s what these animals experience for their entire existence. They don’t have the chance to back up or regroup like I did. Maybe they don”t know what it’s like to “feel better.”

So, which person will you be today? Will you be the person speaking up for the oppressed and asking for non-violence? Will you be complicit by walking by in silence? Or will you join in with the others, objectifying and harming the innocent in the name of tradition, flavor, entertainment and convenience?

You have the choice today. What will it be?

16 thoughts on “Aftershock

  1. Pingback: MikeyPod 246 | Activist Musician Jason Oliver - MikeyPod

  2. Wendy Linton

    Great piece. You captured the bizarre and confounding world of animal activism very well. I would say that *malaise* is the perfect word to describe the feeling one experiences after begging people to follow their conscience only to be repeatedly attacked and abandoned for doing so. I admire your powerful activism and commitment to raising conscious awareness. Rock on 🤟

    1. Michael Harren
      Michael Harren

      Thanks for checking out and commenting, Wendy. I’m glad you added ‘abandoned’ there too. I get that as well. <3

  3. Ed

    Great piece Michael! Depressing as hell, but spot on. I think many of us have PTSD from all the heinous cruelty we’ve seen, exacerbated by the fact that it’s all legal and supported by a large majority of callous and indifferent people.

  4. Jeremy Matz

    I applaud you. I’ve been thinking about the meaning of “protest” and how a successful protest makes people feel uncomfortable. At the time, I’m sure people on the bus with Rosa Parks were just annoyed that she was causing a commotion and delaying their ride. People are annoyed at football players for ruining their entertainment; people got annoyed at Meryl Streep for talking politics at an award show, etc…). People who aren’t feeling the pain generally want to maintain the status queue and successful protesters jar the public awake to confront something going on in front of them.

    The discomfort you saw and experienced was a sign that you were effective. Congratulations!

  5. Victoria Toulis

    I can’t believe what happened. The whole thing is such a nightmare. Thank you for fighting for them, and I’m sorry that you had to get physically attacked by that maniac. The police were disgraceful to say the least in how they handled that situation, and I hope that they get reprimanded for it. Thank you for being strong for The Animals, and I hope that, that incident made you even stronger. Everyday I have a dark cloud over my head, but I think about everyone of you fighting and I do see the world changing and that puts a smile on my face. I Love you guys, Thank you!

    1. Michael Harren
      Michael Harren

      Yeah! It’s important to remember that the world IS changing. So freaking slowly, but it is changing!!

  6. Cynthia King

    Great piece Michael…and I’m glad to stand with you. (in any weather) We must never lose sight of the bullied and exploited. Your words made me cry.

  7. Nitesh

    Nicely expressed Michael! I especially liked the part where you mentioned how for few moments you experienced what it feels like for your will to be taken away, and that sadly the animals have to endure that and worse, their entire lives!

  8. jean publiee

    you are right. you feel defeated after tryign to speak out, but we all knoiw once we know what is happening we cannot stop speaking out. the abuse to all animal species is immense and needs to be stopped. we cannot stop as long as this abuse continues

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