Rodeos: To Ban or Not to Ban?

New Zealand animal activists want the cruel practice put out to pasture.

Any questions? (Photo: Todd Korol / Reuters)

While New Zealand rodeo enthusiasts look to modernize rodeo rules to increase animal welfare, activists insist that the only change capable of protecting the animals is one that bans the sport entirely.

What about the bulls being ridden, the bucking horses, or the steers being wrestled?

"We see no point at all in the review of the code," says Hans Kriek, the executive director of Save Animals from Exploitation. "We will make it clear to the Government that it is time to ban rodeos."

Although the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is making New Zealand’s Draft Code of Welfare (Rodeos) open to the public and is accepting submissions for suggested revisions until November 26, Kriek claims that “every single animal rights organization is against rodeos.”  

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According to SPCA manager Geoff Sutton and Canterbury Vets owner Steve Williams, organizers of the 2012 Methven Rodeo in New Zealand not only obeyed the current welfare code, but also went “above and beyond” to make sure the animals were treated properly.

But this is only one example; there are many more rodeos across the world that may not be as up-to-code. 

The New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association calls cowboys and cowgirls the backbone of the sport.  But what about the bulls being ridden, the bucking horses, or the steers being wrestled? Clearly, they’re infusing the rodeo sport with their fear, anger, and lack of desire to be a part of it.

Rodeos are bizarre representations of national glory that somehow bring families together for “fun” picnic outings, much like football inspires fans to tailgate.  As you can see in this video from the 2012 Methven Rodeo in New Zealand, children can even participate at rodeo events.  However, rodeos weren’t always theatrical displays of athleticism.

The sport originated in Mexico and Spain as an informal way for vaqueros to share their cattle herding techniques. Cowboys in the United States, Canada, South America and Australia turned the productive practice into a competition, adding rough stock and timed events. They include tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc and bareback riding, bull riding, pole bending, goat tying and barrel racing.

As you can see in the pictures below, all events seem painful for both the animals and the humans involved, so why has the rodeo become an age-old tradition that is now the official state sport of Wyoming, Texas and South Dakota?  One can only assume ego, pride, and the thrill of risk-taking are involved, combined with the ability to find more value in a shiny medal than in broken animal and human bones.

So what can you do to get involved in this animal activist issue? 

Write a petition on change.org against New Zealand rodeos, sign this petition to ban rodeos in the United States, write letters to sponsors, or hold a demonstration

The cows, horses, bulls, sheep, and aging cowboys with too many long-term injuries to count will thank you.

Should rodeos be outlawed in the United States?

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