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Austin Bold FC to continue with farm animal promotion despite PETA protests

Austin Bold FC owner Bobby Epstein, holding a chicken, talks to media on Thursday afternoon
Austin Bold FC owner Bobby Epstein, holding a chicken, talks to media on Thursday afternoon ahead on Wednesday's upcoming match and farm animal promotion. (Photo courtesy Austin Bold FC)

An Austin Bold FC promotion meant to generate attention ahead of Wednesday’s USL Championship match with Phoenix Rising FC, has generated the wrong kind of attention. In response to the Bold’s invitation for fans to bring their farm animals to the match, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (better known by their PETA acronym) issued a strongly-worded open letter to Bold owner Bobby Epstein on Monday, imploring him to shut down the promotion. 

The Bold won’t be deterred from their vision of letting a local 4-H group tend to soccer fans’ collection of animals, however, and plan to carry out the promotion as planned. In fact, the Bold has already coordinated with Austin Rodeo to build a holding area about a quarter mile from the stadium. 

PETA, in the preface to its letter, portrayed the event far differently, urging Epstein to “retract this cruel promotion and to adopt a policy barring all live animals from future events.” 

“It’s indefensible to subject animals to the confusion and stress of being packed up, hauled to a soccer game, and subjected to rowdy fans and other animals, all to save the cost of a ticket,” said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman in the preface. “PETA is calling on Austin Bold to pull the plug on this cheap stunt and to pledge to keep all animals out of the equation in the future.”

The letter went on to assert that “professional soccer games are intense events. The energy is palpable, and it’s what makes attending them such an enjoyable experience. But the bright lights, screaming fans, and clanging cowbells would be terrifying for animals who can’t possibly understand what’s going on.” The reference to cowbells comes from an add-on to the promotion, in which the first 100 fans through the gates on Wednesday will receive a free cowbell.

The Bold’s general manager, Roberto Pinto da Silva, notes that a veterinarian and other experienced animal handlers will be on site to attend to the invited animals — specifically, chicks, ducks, geese, goats, cows, pigs, turkeys, sheep, horses, llamas and donkeys. He said, “We expect animal owners to make their own good decisions, but also believe people can get a better appreciation for animals if they can actually interact with them. 

He added, helpfully, “We love animals.” 

COTA’s Rick Abbott added, in a statement, “The animals will be on a grass meadow, not in the crowds, and people will have to made an effort to visit him.” Assuming the crowds get up to goal-scoring decibel levels of celebration, Abbott characterizes what they’ll experience as “no louder than a tractor.” 

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