Here's How Coca-Cola Supports Deadly Animal Cruelty (Video)

"It’s a sickening sound you never forget, a sharp crack that echoes throughout the quiet arena."  — SHARK investigator describing the moment a steer's neck was broken while being roped at a rodeo.


For years Coca-Cola has deceived the public about its support of animal cruelty. While claiming to have company policies against supporting animal abuse, the company sponsors events where animals are routinely injured and killed. Here is how it perpetrates this fraud on the public.

SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness) has documented the treatment of animals at rodeos since 1993 and at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo (CFD) in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in particular since 2005. I’ll focus on CFD because it is one of the largest and oldest rodeos in America and a good example of Coca-Cola’s relationship with rodeo.

Forget the myth of rodeos as all-American sport. Modern rodeos are cruel and deadly for animals. Traditional ranch work has been perverted into a spectacle of animal abuse disguised as "western tradition." Today's rodeos bear little resemblance to ranch work in which care was taken to not injure animals.

Modern rodeos are nothing more than western-themed circuses with contestants wearing John Wayne costumes and racing against the clock in a cruel spectacle for cash prizes.

And it's the animals who pay the price, from being electrically prodded to make horses and bulls appear wild to tail twisting and raking on calves to force them to into position to be roped. Countless animals suffer from contestants who only care about beating the clock and winning cash before moving on to the next rodeo in the next city.

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Calf roped at Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo (image: SHARK Online)

Anyone with a heart knows it's wrong to clothesline baby animals, body slam them to the ground, tie their legs so they can’t move, and drag them by the neck. If this were done to a puppy or kitten, the offender would understandably be charged with a crime, and likely be jailed. In rodeos, however, it's called "calf roping," and supporters claim it’s a sport.

And Coca-Cola is the “Official Soft Drink” of all this brutality.

When an animal is injured during the regular rodeo, a well-orchestrated distraction team is deployed, The view to the injured animal is blocked by men on horseback,  the announcer directs people’s attention elsewhere and the rodeo clown starts performing in another part of the arena. But during morning slack where the steer mentioned in the opening quote was killed, none of this cover-up happens—and the brutality of rodeo is on full display.

Slack is the part of the rodeo the general public never sees. When a rodeo has too many contestants for the main rodeo they will hold qualifying rounds in the early morning. At Cheyenne, the arena is empty and deathly quiet except for the sounds of a horse and a steer running, a rope being thrown, and the occasional shout of encouragement from other contestants.

It is during this slack that much of the brutality at CFD takes place. Every year since 2005 SHARK has documented horses, calves and steers being killed at CFD during the regular rodeo, but mostly during slack. You can see our extensive documentation at www.shameoncheyenne.com or on YouTube.

For many years Coca-Cola claimed to have a corporate policy of not supporting any events where there was a chance of animals being injured. So how can Coke sponsor rodeos where animals are routinely injured and killed?

Coca-Cola simply denied that it sponsored any rodeos and devised a scheme where it could pass the blame on to its “independent bottlers” which it claimed were the real sponsors of rodeos, not the actual Coca-Cola company. This allowed Coke to have it both ways: It could get the advertising at a rodeo, but also pretend to not be responsible for supporting animal cruelty.

In other words, it devised a system of passing the buck. Coke could lie to the general public about supporting rodeos and violating its own company policy, but still get all the benefits.

Have a look at this sign and decide for yourself: Who is really the sponsor of CFD—Coca-Cola or its independent bottler?

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Coca-Cola sponsorship sign at CFD (image: SHARK Online)

Currently, Coca-Cola still denies sponsoring CFD, but several years ago, after SHARK had exposed its blatant hypocrisy, Coca-Cola admitted that it will occasionally sponsor other rodeos as long as the animals have “ready access to quality veterinary care.”

While that may sound good at first glance, it is meaningless. How does quality veterinary care help a steer with a broken neck or a horse with a broken leg? The animal is still doomed. The calves still face the cruelty of being clotheslines and slammed to the ground. If dog fighters have a veterinarian at ringside does that make the practice of dog fighting any less cruel?

So why is Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of rodeos so important?

It’s important to realize that Coke and other big rodeo sponsors have pumped lots of money into rodeos. There was a time when people were involved in rodeo because they loved it, and they might make a little money on the side. Now, thanks to Coke and others, contestants can make lots of money; they can get rich. That means that while the animals were treated roughly before, now they are considered absolutely expendable, like an animal demolition derby.

In today’s environment, without the massive subsidies these big sponsors provide, rodeo would shrink to a small fraction of its current size. Without that influx of sponsor cash, most rodeos would financially have a hard time existing at all.

So the utter brutality of the modern rodeo rests squarely on the shoulders of their large corporate sponsors, and few of them are more prominent than Coke. Corporate sponsorships are not just part of the problem, one could argue they are the root of the problem.

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Fatally injured animal at CFD being carted out past Coke trucks. (image: SHARK Online)

Coca-Cola needs to get out of the animal cruelty business and stop sponsoring activities where animals are routinely brutalized, injured and killed. This includes using its local bottlers to cover up its true corporate sponsorships. Please contact Coke and tell it to stop sponsoring rodeos.

The 2017 Cheyenne Rodeo begins at the end of July, and despite Coca-Cola’s lies, it will be the "Official Soft Drink" of all that brutality.

Watch a video of a horse being killed at the Cheyenne Frontier Day Rodeo (warning: graphic content):

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