Animal rights group seeks to stop McAlester prison rodeo

Sunday, August 29th 2004, 9:57 am
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ A national animal rights group has asked Pittsburg County to cancel the annual Oklahoma State Prison Rodeo.

Kristie Phelps, rodeo program coordinator for In Defense of Animals, wrote a letter to the Pittsburg County court clerk stating that rodeos encourage violent criminals to inflict suffering.

The event gives inmates ``the right to torment and abuse frightened animals in front of a cheering audience,'' Phelps wrote.

The letter was filed in support of a lawsuit filed by inmate Michael C. Washington seeking an injunction to stop the rodeo, which scheduled to begin Saturday.

Washington's lawsuit claims inmates at the penitentiary are being denied their ``rights and privileges'' and the rodeo is held only for economic reasons, not to benefit inmates.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals expects to write a similar letter against the rodeo soon, spokeswoman Christy Williams said.

Last year, PETA unsuccessfully urged Gov. Brad Henry to stop the rodeo.

This year, PETA and In Defense of Animals are encouraging alternative competitions for inmates, such as weightlifting, riding mechanical bulls or playing basketball.

Rodeo officials are confident the rodeo will continue as planned.

``Let's just say that neither rain, nor snow, nor pending lawsuits will stop the 2004 prison rodeo,'' said Bill McMahan, chairman of the rodeo committee.

The prison rodeo has been held for the past 64 years at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.