20 Jul ANIMALS USED IN RODEOS
“RSPCA Australia does not believe that there is any justification for subjecting animals to this level of stress and potential for injury, when the event is carried out only for the purpose of human entertainment or sport.”
This statement forms the crux of the policy from Australia’s peak animal welfare body, the go to organisation of governments of all levels when formulating policy, and was written on May 2nd 2016. Throughout this article I will refer to the RSPCA policy on rodeos not because I am a firm believer in their infallibility, but because an in depth examination of their stand on rodeos reveals that in this instance, they got it right. Indeed, they have focused solely on the animals’ perspective, where I will attempt to throw a looking glass over some of the arguments put forward by the “Pro” lobby. Where RSPCA excerpts appear, they will be in inverted commas.
“Arguments put forward in support of the use of horses, bulls, steers and calves in rodeos tends to focus on the fact that these events have been part of country town life for many years, that they are good for the local community and that the animals are well treated and “enjoy” their work.”
Let’s examine the history. “Bushman’s Carnivals” originated in Northern NSW in the late
If that were not bad enough, young children are encouraged to learn to rope by mimicking the actions of the adult competitors by roping a calf that has been tethered to a stake in the arena, thus perpetuating a new generation of animal abusers. Indeed, it could be argued that teaching them this, or taking children to these events,
Rodeo is not a historically significant part of Australia, but a recent import from the US.
To refer to RSPCA again: “Looking at the participation in rodeos from the animals’ perspective, there is little evidence that these animals “enjoy” the experience. Rodeo horses and bulls buck repeatedly as an instinctive reaction to the discomfort of being ridden and to the presence of flank straps which have been tightened around their underbelly. Horses and cattle are prey animals and their reaction to being ridden in this way is the same as being attacked by a predator, a situation where they are subject to increased stress, anxiety and panic. In many rodeos, horses and bulls will hurl themselves at solid objects in order to rid themselves of the rider. Only when the rider has been thrown and the flank straps loosened do they quieten down.”
If this is not enough to inflict upon them, extensive video evidence exists that shows horses and bulls subjected to electric shock on the testicles and in the anus, as well as tail twisting and slapping, prodding of the eyes and ears to rile them up to increase their fear response to make for a better show for the crowd. There is also video evidence where horses and bulls have straps that attach to the testicles, that tighten more as they buck and become more panicked, increasing their stress levels immensely.
The risk of significant injury to these animals is obviously extremely high, with a large number of broken limbs the most recorded injury by on and off site vets, usually requiring euthanasia. Most recently, at the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) event that toured Australia in December 2017, a bull suffered a horrendous break to a hind leg during the Adelaide show, resulting in his immediately being put down.
The point to this is that human beings have the choice to participate in high risk activities, these animals do not.
A recent rise in the popularity of “Bush Based Eventing”, such as the Denni Ute Muster, has seen an increase in an entirely Australian flavour of so-called “Redneck Culture”, where if you are a farmer or live in a rural town or affiliate with that lifestyle and dress to code, you are accepted as a “Bushie”, a legend, salt of the earth Aussie. A true blue worker who keeps the country afloat for the latte sipping hated Greenies. You are someone to be feted and admired, the tough outback Aussie, never to be criticised- because that would be “Un-Australian”.
However, the rise in public awareness of animal cruelty issues has firmly placed the harsh spotlight on rodeos as a cruel and unnecessary form of entertainment, a form of animal abuse and consequently caused a national reflection that has begun to expose those in the bush counter culture who support it as out of touch, uneducated and living in a past that was never a part of Australian culture.
The view widely held by supporters is that that this perspective is solely that of “city folk”, and that they know nothing of animals or animal cruelty, and should, therefore, shut up and go away.
These polar opposite points of view are having a far deeper impact than merely pitting animal rights against rodeo supporters, with the farming/bush/pro community rapidly becoming extremely insular, isolating itself from mainstream society in a “
This “Us versus Them” divide has seen an escalation in violent incidents, with peaceful protestors physically assaulted by rodeo attendees. This gives rise to a question in 3 parts.
How to- a) Stop the assaults b) Repair the social divide c) Affect change
In addressing a) and b), it is my opinion they cannot be achieved without including c), putting forward a suite of holistic changes. First and foremost, the continuation of rodeos must cease, and be outlawed by legislative methods, nationally. There is no evidence to suggest that any perceived financial benefit cannot be achieved by some other non-violent celebration of community.
By an educative process that encourages empathy and compassion towards other animals and opening up a dialogue, (which it is acknowledged will take an extended period of time), it MAY be possible to bridge the perceived gap in culture between city and country, which will by nature lead to less or no assaults, certainly none at rodeos because none will be held.
In closing, Australians, regardless of their place of residence, have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to move forward as a combined society, one that eschews animal exploitation in all its forms. Indeed, I believe it is the only way we can move forward.
Author: Andy Meddick
Animal Justice Party MLC Western Victoria Region