- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

An animal rights group has asked the governor of Wyoming to remove the bucking bronco from the state's license plate, claiming it "promotes and glorifies" animal cruelty.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants Gov. Jim Geringer to "modernize" the silhouette image of a cowboy atop the bucking animal to "reflect 21st century understanding of the nature of animals."

"We are hopeful that when you learn about the lives of animals used in rodeos, you will not wish to promote and glorify these inhumane events on state license plates," Kristie Sigmon, a PETA grass-roots coordinator, said in a recent letter to the governor.

"Treating 'livestock' like mechanical bulls makes Wyoming a laughing stock," Miss Sigmon said.

When asked to respond, a spokesman for Mr. Geringer giggled and said, "No comment from the governor."

The spokesman, however, went on to say that he had not heard of anyone taking action to change the plate, and that the governor has not responded in writing to PETA.

Sen. Craig Thomas, Wyoming Republican, said PETA should focus on more important issues than "maligning license plates."

He said PETA was "bucking up the wrong tree."

"Don't hold your breath for Wyoming to boot the cowboy off the plates to reflect PETA's politically correct campaign," said Mr. Thomas.

Miss Sigmon said the plates are a promotion of rodeos, although there is no mention of rodeos on the plates, which contain the image, license number and state name.

Wyoming residents are fiercely proud of the symbol, which has become an icon identifying Wyoming products, objects and people. The symbol was adopted to the state license plate in 1936.

It dates back to 1918, when it was the insignia worn by soldiers from Wyoming in World War I, and was designed by George N. Ostrom. It was later adopted by the U.S. Army to identify gun trails, trucks and other equipment, according to information provided by the Wyoming Secretary of State's Office.

However, some historians believe the horse in the symbol was modeled after a legendary rodeo horse named Steamboat, which was dubbed "the horse that couldn't be ridden."

"Rodeo events are intentionally violent acts against animals for nothing more than cheap thrills," Miss Sigmon said.

Animals experience "psychological terror" from being chased and roped, she said, and seriously injured calves, steers and bulls are "simply sent to slaughter."

She cited animals killed in rodeos in Texas, California and Canada, but did not list any fatalities in Wyoming, which hosts the popular Frontier Days rodeo.

The state recently redesigned the plates, adding Devil's Tower National Monument as the backdrop for the bronco and rider.

Inmates at the Wyoming state penitentiary have already started stamping out the new plates, which will begin appearing next year.

"One would think an organization like PETA, that at least figures to be taken seriously, would have more important things to focus its attention on than maligning a tin license plate," Mr. Thomas said.

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