Rodeo: cruelty for a buck

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With the ‘international rodeo’ scheduled for Dunedin and Hamilton this year we’re hearing the same tired mantra from organisers: “it’s tradition; welfare standards are high; the animals enjoy it”. This is all intended to excuse an outdated form of entertainment so that a minority can satisfy their strange desire to play cowboy and dominate animals. But we’re not in the Wild West – it’s time to enter the modern world and stop this cruel spectacle.

Stressed and scared animals

By design, rodeos subject animals to deliberate provocation and torment in order to get a performance out of them and make the riders look brave and macho – they are not, in fact, wild animals – they are just made to look that way. The bulls and horses fear for their lives, thinking it’s a very real situation. They do not know it’s ‘just for fun’. The bright lights, pyrotechnics and fireworks of the ‘international rodeo’ only increases their torment, as new footage from last year’s international rodeo shows.

You won’t find one animal advocacy organisation that supports rodeos. Welfare experts and respected veterinarians oppose the use of animals in rodeo, believing them to be cruel and abusive. Peggy Larson, a former rodeo rider, a farmer and vet is now against them. She says, ‘Based upon my extensive experience with large animals, I have come to the conclusion that rodeo events are inherently inhumane. It is impossible to create a humane rodeo.’

Rodeos are banned in the UK, parts of Europe, Australia and the US on the grounds of cruelty to the animals. On our own shores, the Auckland council banned rodeos in 2008.

Not Kiwi

Rodeos have no place in New Zealand. Rodeo is a practice that originated in the US – it has nothing to do with agricultural practice here (which, at least in theory anyway, would seek to cause the least amount of stress to animals) and, in the case of the international rodeo, everything to do with greed and profit.

There have been many studies done on the links between cruelty to animal and harm to humans. Children are very impressionable and are led by rodeos into believing that it is okay to terrorise and mistreat animals, seemingly with adult approval.

Rodeo Welfare Code under review

Unhappily for rodeo animals even the law affords them no refuge. The Animal Welfare Act has proven time and time again to be totally inadequate, and is well-known for allowing abuse to continue if profit takes precedence. But fortunately laws can change for the better (look at the 2010 ban on sow stalls for pigs), and the opportunity is upon us now and we’re calling for a total ban on rodeo. SAFE is asking for your help to make this happen. You just need to send a quick e-mail submission before the end of the November.

It’s no longer an ‘if’ but a ‘when’ for the end to the outdated minority ‘sport’ of rodeos. Opinion is bucking against them and one day it will be something we will all look back upon in shame and wonder what the hell we were doing. It’s time to put those cowboys out to pasture once and for all.

Mandy Carter, SAFE Campaign Manager

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