Cruel ... donkey rider lines up a dunk
THESE shocking images show the latest outrageous craze to come out of America — "donkey basketball".
The controversial sport is booming in the US's midwest but has sparked anger among animal rights groups.
Originally invented in the 1930's Depression as a cheap form of entertainment the brutal looking sport is making a comeback in parts of the US as the credit crunch bites.
But animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) say the animals are mistreated by participants and handlers.
The sport is proving ever popular with 600 people in the town of Moravia, which has a population of 680 recently turning out for a game hosted by Buckeye Donkey Ball.
Kenny Schappacher, who works for the company slammed accusations of animal cruelty saying: “My favourite area is the Midwest. Some of these towns, there just ain’t nothing to do.
"When you come to a town like this, it’s just really good. Everyone has a good time.”
Desiree Acholla, PETA’s animals-in-entertainment specialist, said the games are cruel because the donkeys get confused in the chaotic atmosphere of the gym.
She said she receives reports of donkeys getting punched and kicked by inexperienced riders, and the animals’ backs are stressed by having to carry heavy weights. She also said it’s common for operators to withhold food and water so the donkeys don’t urinate during games.
But donkey ball player Kelsey Flattery said gamers are instructed not to strike the donkeys or pull on their ears, hair or tails.
Ms Flattery said: “As long as we’re not being cruel to them, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.
“Isn’t it just the same as riding a horse?”
The apparent brutality of the sport has led to it being banned by schools in Portland, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania, among other places.
In March, a donkey basketball game scheduled for a school in Idaho, was cancelled after 27-year-old auto mechanic Josh Maus started a petition drive.
Mr Maus wrote in an email: “There are better fundraising alternatives to donkey basketball that don’t use animals but are designed so that everyone can participate.”
A company called Donkey Sports of Entiat was lined up to run the event in Kuna, and owner Bruce Wick said it was the first time he had had one cancelled.
Mr Wick said his business still carries out about 150 donkey games a year, about the same number as Buckeye Donkey Ball.
He added: “We never really gave PETA much mind, usually when they fuss about a game, it brings more people to watch.”
Moravia Superintendent Brad Breon said he was not contacted by animal rights activists in advance of his school’s event.
Mr Schappacher added: “This is just good old fun riding a bunch of donkeys. If these donkeys weren’t doing this, they would probably be in a dog-food can somewhere.”