07/06/2016 06:48 EDT | Updated 07/06/2016 06:59 EDT

Rodeo Animals Aren't Performing, They're Suffering


Photo used with permission

Animal welfare at the Calgary Stampede has attracted attention for years, with considerable public concern expressed about events like the chuckwagon race, calf-roping and steer-wrestling.

But of course there are rodeos in a number of small towns across Canada that don't garner the same media and public attention that a national event like the Stampede does. Yet these rodeos usually have the same events -- and the same animal welfare issues -- as Calgary's so-called Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has drawn attention to the treatment of animals at several B.C. rodeos, most recently the Williams Lake Stampede. VHS sent a photographer there on the Canada Day long weekend to record what happens to the animals. The results are shocking, but not surprising.


Photo used with permission

All the photos in this post were taken at the Williams Lake Stampede. They show calves being roped and thrown to the ground, steers having their necks twisted, stressed bulls being ridden - all the usual fun of the rodeo. Williams Lake also includes a Wild Horse Race in its rodeo, whose cruel idiocy is hard to capture in still pictures. This 2011 video gives some idea of the torment inflicted on horses in this event.


Photo used with permission

The reaction to the photos, which VHS published on its website an on social media, has been predictable. Many people express disgust at the photos (a recent poll found that 63 per cent of Canadians are opposed to rodeos), but rodeo fans in Williams Lake and elsewhere see nothing wrong with the pictures, as this typical comment on the VHS website suggests: "If you don't agree with the stampede, don't go. We'd rather not have you in our quiet town where we enjoy these events that have gone on for years and years..."


But tradition is no excuse for cruelty and VHS -- along with all Canadians -- has the right to speak out against animal cruelty wherever it takes place. And when people do speak out, things change. Within the last two years, two B.C. rodeos (Luxton and Abbotsford) have folded following campaigns by VHS and other animal advocates.

In 2007, following another VHS campaign, the Cloverdale Rodeo in Surrey, B.C., agreed to drop four key events, including calf-roping and steer-wrestling. There are now no sanctioned professional rodeos left on Vancouver Island or in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

Rodeo remains entrenched in a number of Canadian towns and cities, but the more people who see the photographic evidence of animals being needlessly subjected to fear, pain and stress, the harder it is for rodeo promoters to argue that it is harmless fun.

For those who retain doubts about rodeo's cruelty, there is a wealth of online evidence. The American animal rights group SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) has videoed U.S. rodeos for years. They produced this classic video, which reveals the true culture of North American rodeo

Compassionate Canadians should boycott rodeos and speak out against the treatment of rodeo animals. They are not the willing "athletes" that rodeos claim they are. They are victims of abuse and anyone who believes in kindness to animals should not stand on the sidelines while they suffer.


Photo used with permission

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