Gratuitous rodeo violence has got to stop

Guest Blogger Lynn Charlton discusses the animal cruelty she witnessed at the recent Huntly Rodeo.

*See for yourself! View the footage over on SAFE’s Youtube channel.


The gratuitous violence meted out to animals at the recent Huntly rodeo was disturbing to witness. Even more disturbing for what it revealed was that much of it occurred in full view of spectators.

Visible to the public that chose to notice, were the slaps and goading calves received while trapped in a narrow chute waiting to be chased. They’d been practiced on already so knew what was next. Then there was the chase, someone on horseback racing against them, the rope around the neck, the quick tightening cutting off breath, buckling their spine at 30kph, forcing vertebrae to slam against each other. Calves have had their oesophagus torn, blood vessels in their eyes burst, and necks broken from such roping. After his ordeal, the first calf could barely walk. Limping and shocked he made his way to the exit. No one intervened or went to him, and the next calf took his turn. They would be going to the meat works the next day.

Animal after animal collapsed in terror in the chutes. At one point bulls in chutes 1, 2 and 3 were down, some with riders on their backs. Someone in the arena stomped on the leg of a collapsed bull and gave him a kicking in the neck. The bull got to his feet. Another bull had his face slapped twice while standing waiting his turn.

Bulls circled the arena after being ridden, thick mucus drool splashing their faces and streaming from their mouths. In some, this was mixed with blood. In what could only be called a look of wide-mouthed horror, horses bucked and fled around the arena attempting to escape the rider, the flankstrap and the pick-up men.

Picture 67A palomino horse went berserk in the chute, rearing and bucking before leaning over the chute rail in a position that caused alarm. Shortly after, he was ridden straight across the arena where, bucking blind, he smashed head-first into the fence.

Children goaded into violence

In another chute a young boy sat on a yearling calf, the boy fearful as he hung on to the adult with him. Incongruent with his clinging, and no doubt trying to be a man and staunch-up, he began punching the back of the calf, feigning anger, while the adult stood by. The announcer congratulated the “tough” men and boys, something that, because it was equated with dominating animals, was sad to hear in this day and age.

Electric prods, seen as necessary to gain compliance from frightened animals, were carried openly. Behind the scenes in the calf pens, the electric prod was used on the faces of some of the calves. The handler pulled and twisted tails, singling out individual calves and hauling them with force to a gate. Tails are part of the spine and can be broken, as recent prosecutions show.

If circus animals were punched, shocked, spurred, stomped on, kicked or slapped in view of an audience, or during a role in a film, the public would be outraged. Prosecutions would follow.

Rodeo: no ‘tradition’ of ours
Rodeo is no more a tradition in New Zealand than is the LA “gangster” culture imported here from the US in the last decade or two.

Nor is it good stockmanship or typical farming practice. It is about dominating and subduing animals by force, and being able to stay on their backs for a brief 8 seconds while they go berserk.

Most of us intrinsically know this is wrong. A complaint has been made to the Ministry of Primary Industries and an investigation underway. Sadly, the Huntly rodeo was not unusual as the abuse of animals is standard practice due to the nature of rodeo itself. Media – both television and print – have insisted on clichéd ‘ride ‘em cowboy’ images each year, turning a blind eye to the abuse that has been going on for decades. It is time this changed.

In US cities where flankstraps, spurs and electric prods are banned, rodeo has died out. Perhaps it is time we looked at doing this in New Zealand.

Lynn Charlton is a psychotherapist and writer.

This article first appeared in the Waikato Times. Please leave a comment.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Stephanie Tan says:

    I am absolutely revolted that the rodeo ‘entertainment’ still exists! This cause to end rodeo in NZ has my full support. I simply can’t comprehend how people who watch this and especially who participate in this first hand don’t see the cruelty of this prctice. Needs to end now!

  2. Alyth Long says:

    I totally agree with you….disgusting in this day and age…

  3. Caroline Hunter says:

    This is horrifying. How can this treatment not be against the law? If this was seen being done to domestic pets, there would be an instant outcry. Appalling.

  4. Kirsty says:

    That footage shown IS against the law. It breaches all regulations and protocols. Fortunately, that is only a small snapshot of what rodeo is like; the vast majority of rodeo’s do not breach the legislation at all. I would like to make a point though – the reporter who apparently saw “the rider take his foot out of the stirrup” while on the bull was seeing things. There are no saddles, nor stirrups, on bulls. If this tiny but relevant point has been misrepresented, what else has?

    1. Tony Swain says:

      A moot point I think. Men (and boys) playing at cowboys at the expense of helpless animals. I suppose the horses and bulls going mental in their pens was all part of the fun eh???. From the youtube video of this event, it is plain even to the most biased, that the animals show fear and are very stressed. Anyone who thinks this is fun and good sport needs to make an appointment with the writer of this article. It disgusts me that animals are treated like this…for fun, entertainment and to make us look manly and brave. God help us!!!!

    2. Annette & Chris. says:

      A society that allows violent behavior towards animals encourages violent behavior towards women and children too. To have a sane and caring society that which is insane has to be stopped.

    3. You poor rodeo-blinded fool.
      “That footage shown IS against the law. It breaches all regulations and protocols. Fortunately, that is only a small snapshot of what rodeo is like; the vast majority of rodeo’s do not breach the legislation at all.”
      There is NO legislation in place to protect rodeo animals during their “runs”. EVERY single rodeo abuse event on the planet is based on the premise of chasing, forcing, flanking, spurring and tormenting an animal into reacting. Every single one. Calgary Stampede, my country’s shameful excuse for entertainment, didn’t even MENTION the death of one steer during the TV broadcast of that steer-wrestling event. The steer had his neck broken. The contestant won 6500 bucks. How on EARTH is that anything other than what rodeo is “like”??

  5. Cathy says:

    Just awful. It would be very interesting to see just how many of the rodeo participants would volunteer themselves for the same treatment that they subject the animals to. I would like to see them in the ring terrified, exhausted, in pain, being chased, roped, slapped, kicked, prodded etc etc. Why do humans feel they have the right to inflict fear and pain on animals especially for entertainment?

  6. Pamela G. Nunn says:

    I absolutely agree with Lynn Charlton’s view, and wrote to The Press with the same general opinion when in the Canterbury region the rodeo was promoted as family entertainment. It’s a disgrace masquerading as an essential part of country life, and the point she makes about it being an American ‘wannabe’ import is also valid. Is it any better than the bull-fighting which Spain has had to give up in the face of 21st-century opionion?

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