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Rodeos put animal health and welfare in front of fans. How rodeo has used veterinary information to prepare for—and respond to—a range of questions can be an example for the beef industry.
Disease of Misinformation
Concerns over EHV-1 or bovine TB may be “hot” topics within the livestock and rodeo industries, but the general public often has more basic questions. Schonholtz says the biggest challenge facing rodeo today is the fundamental difference between working and companion animals.
“An animal that has a purpose gives it value and care,” Schonholtz says. “Every part of that involves veterinarians. They can help us explain the role of veterinary care, and animals that have jobs receive more veterinary care because they have value. Without healthy livestock, we don’t have an industry at all. As with any industry that has animals, the health and welfare has to be the top priority, or we don’t have an event or don’t have a successful event.”
Schonholtz regularly works with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and other livestock groups, but also advocates for local and personal interactions, which are small steps everyone can take. For instance, the PRCA mobilizes its local rodeo committees to help spread this message at each local event where media are often invited and behind-the-scenes tours are given to showcase animal handling facilities.
“We encourage local committees, the rodeo veterinarians and the stock contractors to talk about how they care for the animals and their purpose,” Schonholtz says. “Local committees are encouraged to contact media, introduce stock contractors to media and bring positive coverage to their event.”
Schonholtz points to new rodeos this year, like the Breckenridge, CO, rodeo which has helped cross the divide between urban and rural.
“Recently, I worked with the rodeo committee in Breckenridge, and there was some pushback from people that didn’t understand the care of the livestock,” Schonholtz says. “For the general public to put a face on the people that care for the livestock, it was huge. There is nothing more genuine than looking face to face with a person that cares for the animals.”
Face-to-face interaction with people dedicated to the care of animals is the best medicine to treat misinformation, Dr. Corey says.
“A local rodeo offers opportunities to interact with the public and educate people about livestock and rodeo animal health,” he recommends. “Over the years I’ve given interviews, participated in tours and talked with newspapers ahead of time. Communication is the biggest issue there is in all the livestock industries. Rodeos are community activities, and if a veterinarian wants to be involved in a rodeo, get involved in the community first. Vets have the credibility to tell their side of the story, and they should get out there and share it.”
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