CALGARY - For prominent animal rights activist and TV game show legend Bob Barker, no rodeo is a good rodeo.
Despite efforts by the Calgary Stampede to make its animal events safer for both critters and cowboys, the man who signed off each episode of "The Price is Right" with a plea for people to neuter their pets would like to see an end to the display of western skills.
"I would like very much to see them celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede by saying that is enough animal cruelty," Barker said recently in an interview with The Canadian Press. "Let's wind it up and close it down."
The Calgary Stampede marks it 100th birthday when it kicks off Friday and still the rodeo remains a lightning rod for controversy.
Rodeo events at the Stampede invariably sell out each year, but concerns over animal welfare have become more prevalent over the last decade and were magnified in 2010 after six horses died.
In 2011, the Stampede adopted new rules for rodeo events and chuckwagon races to try to provide more protection for both human and animal participants.
All horses are now inspected by veterinarians when the animals arrive at the Stampede and before and after every race. There is also a mandatory rest day after every four days of racing.
The number of outriders that accompany each chuckwagon as it thunders around a dirt track was reduced to two from four in an effort to reduce congestion and possible accidents. Several riders have been seriously injured over the years.
The 88-year-old Barker doesn't buy the attempt.
"I doubt seriously if they've made any great strides in making rodeo safe. I don't know how they could and I would imagine they talk about it more than they actually do."
He criticized his former game show show earlier this year for giving away trips to the Calgary Stampede as part of a prize package.
"I know that every national animal protection organization is absolutely opposed to rodeo and the Calgary Stampede is considered one of the most despicable of all rodeos in the world."
The criticism doesn't surprise Stampede organizers.
"You put it in perspective. We have to hold true to our own values and we know in our heart what outstanding treatment we provide for all of our animals in the show," said Bob Johnson, Stampede vice-chairman.
"We know we'll never escape opinions from certain elements of the public. But we hold true to ourselves and the excellent treatment we provide in that regard, but we always seek to improve."
While the Calgary Humane Society has applauded the work of the Stampede around protecting animals and works closely with organizers, the Vancouver Humane Society has been a vocal opponent. It says more than 50 chuckwagon horses have died since 1986.
The Vancouver organization is taking a more measured approach than Barker, asking only that calf roping be banned.
"We do think there are people across Canada, including in Calgary, who have concerns about animal welfare at the rodeo in particular with calf roping. That's why our campaign objective is to see an end to calf roping at the Stampede and we think that is a reasonable objective," said Peter Fricker.
"We think it is in terms of the stress and fear and pain the animal is subjected to the worst event at the Stampede and we're hoping our campaign will continue to raise the concerns about that event."
The Royals Leave Canada
Will and Kate wave goodbye to Calgary as they conclude their royal Canadian tour.
The Royals Sign The Guest Book
William and Kate sign the guest book at the ENMAX Conservatory in Calgary with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, left, and Lt. Gov. Donald S. Ethell.
Kate Meets Frances Miller
The Duchess of Cambridge meets with Frances Miller as she prepares to leave Calgary with her husband to head to Los Angeles.
The Portraits Of Honour
Prince William and Catherine view the Portraits of Honour on display at their official departure ceremony in Calgary.
The Royals In The Conservatory
William and Catherine tour the ENMAX Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo.
Kate Arrives At The Zoo
The Duchess of Cambridge visits the ENMAX Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo.
The Royals And Stelmach
Will and Kate speak with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach at the ENMAX Conservatory in Calgary.
Will And Kate In Matching Hats
The Royals at the Calgary Stampede Parade.
Will and Kate wave to the crowd while at the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Watch The RCMP
Will and Kate watch the RCMP march in the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Watch The Parade
The Duke and Duchess watch the beginning of the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Duke Arrives
Prince William arrives in cowboy gear to the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Royals Push The Button
Will and Kate push a button to start the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Rodeo Shocks Kate
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge watch a rodeo demonstration at the Calgary Stampede.
Kate And A Calgarian
The Duchess of Cambridge speaks with a little girl while at the Stampede.
The Duchess Receives Flowers
Catherine meets well-wishes and receives flowers at a Government Reception in Calgary.
The Government Reception
A view of the Government Reception at the BMO Centre in Calgary.
Kate Checks Her Hat
Will and Kate watch Stampede activities in Calgary at the BMO Centre.
Will Tips His Hat
Prince William during a speech at the Calgary Stampede.
The Royals At The BMO Centre
Will and Kate watch traditional Calgary Stampede activities.
Will Gets Down To Work
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, throws a barrel into the back of a chuckwagon during his visit to the Calgary Stampede on Thursday, July 7, 2011, in Calgary, Alberta.
Royal Tour Canada
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrive via stage coach for a reception at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Canada as they continue their Royal Tour of Canada Thursday, July 7, 2011.
The Royals And Harper
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, second from right, Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Laureen Harper, left, watch a child sheep ride event at the Stampede in Calgary, Alberta on Thursday, July 7, 2011.
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper watch dancers while attending a reception at the Calgary Stampede on Thursday, July 7, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta.
The Royals Go Western
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, wear their new Smithbilt cowboy hats as they watch a rodeo demonstration in Calgary, Alberta, July 7, 2011.
The Royals Wave To Admirers
Prince William and Kate after a tour of the 21st Century Research and Innovation Centre in Calgary.
Will Waves From The Car
Prince William waves from his car with Kate on the eighth day of their Canadian tour.
The Duke And Duchess Are Greeted
Prince William and Kate are greeted when arriving at 21st Century Research and Innovation Centre Calgary.
Kate Inspects A Mannequin
Kate follows her husbands lead and saves the life of a medical test mannequin at the University of Calgary.
Will And Kate Tour U of C
Prince William and Kate are shown how to save a life with a medical test mannequin at the University of Calgary's Ward of the 21st Century.
The Royals And RCMP In Calgary
Prince William and Catherine look at a RCMP officer after arriving in Calgary.
A Calgary Chinook?
Kate's hair doesn't agree with the wind as the Royals land in Calgary for the final stretch of their Canadian tour.
Will Meets Shy Calgarian
Prince William meets -- or tries to meet -- shy 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary.
Catherine Gets A Hug
Kate hugs 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary after arriving.
Kate Is Greeted
The Duchess meets with shy 6-year-old Diamond Marshall in Calgary.
Will, Kate And Flight Crew
The Royals get their photo taken with flight crew members as they arrive in Calgary.
Will Gets A White Hat
Prince William is presented with a white cowboy hat from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The Royals Land In Calgary
The Royals land in Calgary for the last Canadian city on their tour of the country.
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, pose for a photo with members of the Canadian Forces flight crew upon their arrival in Calgary, Alberta on Thursday, July 7, 2011.