Reporting from Beijing— Animal rights activists in Beijing are directing their attention away from fur farms, dog meat and zoos toward a less likely target in China: a rodeo.
A coalition of 68 Chinese animal rights groups has called for the cancellation of Rodeo China, a Sino-U.S. cultural exchange event scheduled for October at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest.
In a letter last month to the Chinese People's Assn. for Friendship With Foreign Countries, a government group teamed with the event's U.S. organizers, the rights groups condemned rodeo as a cruel sport that even Americans deem abusive and unpopular.
Rodeo China was approved by the Chinese government in April as part of a series of Sino-American cultural exchange events. The largest event to be held in the Bird's Nest since the 2008 Olympics, it is expected to feature hundreds of steer, horses and cowboys from overseas.
Event organizers last week promised that no animals would be harmed.
"We do not torture or abuse any animals," said Victor Guo, a spokesman for ZZYX Entertainment, which is producing the rodeo for a company called Less Is Forever More Inc. "There is no reason … to cancel this event."
But activists say China does not have any clear legislation concerning the treatment of non-endangered species, and the country's animal rights record is decidedly grim. Conditions at zoos have been reported as particularly abysmal.
In recent years, Chinese animal rights groups have given exposure to a host of issues, such as the elephant ivory trade, dog meat farming and the harvesting of bear bile for traditional medicine.
Rodeo China will not help win Chinese respect for American culture, said Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Assn., one of the groups opposed to the event.
"We think America has a lot of beautiful culture," Qin said. "You have football and Broadway shows. Why not bring one of those instead?"
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