Rodeo events are marketed as a slice of exhilarating “wild west” entertainment. But, there is considerable animal cruelty behind this veneer of respectability.

Proponents of rodeo believe it to be steeped in tradition, and claim that the welfare of the animals involved is a key consideration. However certain rodeo events, such as Calf Roping, have drawn considerable attention from animal welfare organisations for being particularly detrimental to the welfare of the animals taking part.

What is it?

The term rodeo covers a series of competitive activities which have their origin in nineteenth-century cattle herding practices. However, many rodeo events bear little or no resemblance to traditional ranch practices. Events such as Bull Riding, Steer Wrestling and Chuckwagon Racing were invented in the twentieth century for rodeo performances.

What you should know

  • During a rodeo, animals are subjected to immense stress and cruelty in events such as ‘calf roping.’ In this event, the calf is goaded, prodded and often has its tail twisted to ensure that it bursts out of its chute at full speed. The calf is then chased by a mounted rider who must lasso the calf, jump off his horse, pick up the calf, slam it to the ground and tie three of its feet together.
  • There are also concerns that children are exposed to a culture of animal abuse. Not only are children encouraged to watch rodeo events, they are also encouraged to participate in events such as Mutton Busting and Wild Pony Racing. As well as putting children in danger of injury, these events can also teach children that cruelty towards animals is an acceptable form of entertainment.
  • It is difficult to get accurate figures on rodeo deaths and injuries but anti-rodeo activists have compiled a list of incidents from the Calgary Stampede, which gives a representative picture of rodeos risks to animals’ health and well being. Since 1986, more than sixty animals at the Calgary Stampede have died or been euthanised. It should also be noted that many painful injuries go unnoticed and unrecorded because bruising and internal bleeding are difficult to see.

What can you do

  • If you are concerned about the welfare of the animals involved in rodeo events, do not attend or participate in any rodeo events.
  • Do not use travel agencies or tour operators which offer rodeo packages to tourists, and explain why you will not be using their services.
  • If you see rodeo events being advertised or sponsored by hotels, organisations etc, write to them and explain about the animal welfare issues involved in the sport.
  • Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 252, which calls on the Canadian government to take steps to end the immense cruelty to animals in rodeo events such as calf roping.

Where is this applicable?

Rodeo events take place predominantly in the USA and Canada, but also in parts of South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico) and in Australia. Rodeos have been banned in the UK since 1934.

More information

Vancouver Humane Society

Links to other organisations for further information

This article was contributed by the League Against Cruel Sports