When it comes to the abuse of animals in entertainment, rodeos rank among the top culprits. While it’s very typical to see many rodeos in Alberta, there aren’t so many appearing in Ontario, until the Dodge Ram brand brought it to Newmarket Ontario. At this event ticket holders can expect to see saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie down, and team roping. Today, we’re in horse country in York Region Ontario, home to over 1500 horse farms and more than 20,000 horses, and during three shifts on Saturday and Sunday – thousands of people, including horse owners, will see our signs.
Many Canadian rodeo aficionados cite tradition, culture and athleticism as justification for events such as steer-riding, chuck wagon racing, and calf-roping. In the face of increased public critique, animal welfare groups are helping to shed light on the cruelty of these events. Canada’s animal cruelty legislation is a disagrace – the laws have not been substantially changed since 1892. Grassroots movements of Canadians say things need to change. There have already been at least 25 walks across the country and around the world, trying to bring awareness to Canada’s horrible animal cruelty legislation.
Animal welfare groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), also object to rodeos. The ASPCA calls them “a cruel form of entertainment that involves the painful, stressful and potentially harmful treatment of livestock.” The Vancouver Humane Society was instrumental in bringing international focus to the issue of rodeos in Canada, via the League Against Cruel Sports. This is a first step toward internationalising opposition to rodeos in Canada and making it harder for rodeos to justify their use of animals as “entertainment.”
“Sometimes tradition and habit are just that, comfortable excuses to leave things be, even when they are unjust and unworthy. Sometimes–not often, but sometimes–the cranks and radicals turn out to be right.”
― Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy
Tradition and heritage are two very emotional words, heavy with meaning. Yet, despite those historical connections, the Catalonians have banned bullfighting, which was intensely tied to their nationhood and heritage. The British have outlawed foxhunting. The scarlet coated riders are now gone, even though few things were more “British” than stately homes, country weekends, and The Hunt. I wonder, with regard to Canadian tradition, how many settlers had to ride or wrestle steers and race chuckwagons at breakneck speeds across the prairie? I don’t believe that calf roping has ever been a sport but it was made so for entertainment and prize-money, as was bull-riding. Think about it: why would anyone ride a bull? It was created for entertainment and was not something based on culture or tradition. But despite the fact that their own country outlawed rodeos many years ago, royal couple Will and Kate visited the Calgary Stampede. These events are not sports, but an entertainment spectacle and part of that spectacle are the accidents that inevitably result. Horse tripping relies on the horse to fall down as part of the spectacle. Rodeos are a brutish business.
“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it” ― Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
There are many cultural traditions that are not morally acceptable. Think shark finning, whaling and bear bile farming. If many of these cruel practices against animals were promoted as a brand new form of entertainment, virtually every animal lover would demand that the practice cease. Imagine if “horse tripping” were not tied to tradition and parlayed about as a Mexican cultural practice? The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), which sanctions about 600 rodeos each year in the United States and Canada, does not even allow horse-tripping, which is exactly as stupid and dangerous as it sounds. I sent a message to the account holder of the above video (Randy Janssen – read more about him here). He sent me a reply, but still didn’t post my statement – coward! This means that he cannot rebut even the most reasonable arguments against the practice.
“If you have proof of animals being injured in Charreada, send it to me and I will post it. Proof is not unsubstantiated ranting from someone who has never been in a lienzo. It is pictures or videos of injuries in the lienzo. You can see live Charreada on Spanish TV or the decharros (dot) com. You can also see videos of complete Charreada if you google livestreamdecharros. I want you to watch it so you will see that Charros and Charras are good people who would never intentionally hurt animals.Please watch this video.” Looks like I can’t provide any proof unless I’ve been in a “lienzo,” whatever that is. Oh, and he tells you right upfront on the video that he doesn’t allow postings from “animal rights activists,” and of course ratings are disabled too. If these people think their “sport” is so harmless, why don’t they have the courage to allow the general viewership of YouTube to comment and vote on some of these practices?
Many rodeo participants are sincere when they say that they love their animals. Recall the chuckwagon driver Chad Harden of the Calgary Stampede, who cried when his horses died in a terrible wreck this year. But what does the word “love” mean if we are willing to profit from and place in injurious situations those we “love?” Rodeo animals are sent to slaughter, not to retirement and pasture, when they cease to perform at a profit. Whilst it is a sad fact that many animals sustain severe if not fatal injuries when used for entertainment in rodeos, it is perhaps sadder that one can almost guarantee each and every one of them has felt fear and confusion.
“I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.”
― Ellen DeGeneres
“In riding a horse, we borrow freedom”
― Helen Thompson
“When I hear somebody talk about a horse or cow being stupid; I figure it’s a sure sign that the animal has somehow outfoxed them”
― Tom Dorrance, True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse & Human
“Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.”
― George Bernard Shaw
“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”
― Woodrow Wilson
“What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness.”
― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
“There’s nothing more embarrassing than to have earned the disfavor of a perceptive animal.”
― Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys