The recent deaths of horses at the 2010 Calgary Stampede once again raises the need for animal welfare organizations and the public to call for more humane treatment of animals in events which showcase rodeo skills. In its official position on rodeo events the BC SPCA expresses serious concern about the events that are the most stressful or that carry the greatest risk of injury to the animals. Accordingly, we encourage rodeos to use less stressful and harmful methods as part of their events or to eliminate the events altogether.
The BC SPCA recognizes the long tradition of cattle ranching in B.C., and appreciates that there is an interest in showcasing the handling skills of cowboys. That said, modern rodeo events bear little resemblance to the practical methods employed on working ranches throughout our history.
Calf roping events, for example, are a highly exaggerated, dramatized version of how real cowboys rope calves to be able to work on them. Rodeo professionals and stock breeders often make the case that their animals are treated extremely well outside of rodeo events. While this may be the case, events such as calf roping and steer wrestling impose an unacceptably high risk of injury to the animals, and that the potential for pain and fear experienced by the animals for the purpose of entertainment is unjustified.
Instead, the BC SPCA supports the concept of showcasing low-stress cattle handling skills, such as those taught by Dr. Temple Grandin and Alberta rancher Dylan Biggs and horse riding events which showcase the close connection between rider and animal without causing unnecessary stress on livestock.
In recent years, some rodeos have made an effort to modify or exclude some events to limit the pain and injuries suffered by the animals. These changes point toward the future of agricultural exhibitions involving animals. In 2007, the Cloverdale Rodeo Association agreed to remove four events from its roster — calf roping, team-roping, steer wrestling and wild-cow milking — after serious concerns were raised by animal welfare organizations and the public. The Society urges other rodeos to consider removing these events and other risky competitions, such as chuckwagon racing, in the same fashion as the Cloverdale Rodeo.
Photo caption: a team steer event at an average rodeo show pose an unacceptably high risk of injury to animals.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.