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VALLEY FOCUS

College Rodeo Set but a Protest Is Planned

April 29, 1998|SYLVIA L. OLIANDE

Collegiate cowpokes and ranch hands will return to the Pierce College Intercollegiate Rodeo this weekend, but not without a protest.

As they have each year the rodeo has been held since 1994, members of Santa Monica-based Animal Emancipation Inc. say they will gather at the college entrance during the event Friday and Saturday to decry the use of animals for entertainment.

Simon Oswitch, president and co-founder of the activist group, said that nine animals died in California rodeos between 1995 and 1997, and that a steer was injured during a rodeo at Pierce in 1994.

"We believe that rodeos are inherently abusive," said Oswitch, a Sherman Oaks resident. "The animals certainly suffer."

Ron Wechsler, the college's animal science instructor and rodeo advisor, said the animals to be used in the event are bred for competition and are well cared for by the company that supplies them, Western Rodeo Inc.

"They have a lot of money invested in their animals, and it only makes sense that they are not going to abuse them," he said.

The rodeo, a qualifying meet for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo, was canceled in 1997 because of a lack of money. This year, the Associated Student Organization pledged $21,000 of the $33,000 needed to revive the event.

Wechsler said the students' organization will be reimbursed and will share any profits with Pierce's agriculture department.

From 90 to 110 students, representing 10 colleges in California and northern Nevada, are expected to compete in standard rodeo activities, including team roping, bareback riding, calf roping and bull riding.

The stadium gates will open at 6 p.m., and the rodeo is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. nightly at the Woodland Hills campus, 6201 Winnetka Ave.

Tickets are $8 general and $6 for students, children and seniors, and can be purchased through Ticketmaster or at the box office.

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