The Buck Stops Here - Tasmanian Rodeo Campaign
What is wrong with Rodeos?
Although rodeo organisers would have the general public think differently, it is a fact that many animals are killed or badly injured in rodeos. Many injuries are not visible to the naked eye, while others are all too apparent, with horses and bulls suffering broken necks, backs and legs during bucking events. Many cattle break legs during roping events, and calf roping causes severe bruising around the throat. Rodeo supporters astonishingly believe such events replicate the taming process and are a positive way of bringing the wild under control.
When footage of a bull that broke its back at Carrick Rodeo in January 2006 was broadcast by the media, public outrage was obvious. The vision was disturbing and appalling. It demonstrated, in the raw, the gruesome underbelly of rodeos. The severely injured bull was kicked and forced to drag his paralysed legs into a yard and eventually up a ramp into a truck. With no vet on site, this bull was allowed to suffer for a considerable length of time.
A subsequent court case highlighted the degree of confusion which exists when it comes to identifying the party responsible for the care of competing rodeo animals - is it the organisers or the stockman? The lack of direct responsibility identified by the Carrick case, contributes to the inability of welfare organisations like RSPCA Tasmania to prosecute guilty parties.
Until July of this year, voluntary or "best practice" rules for the treatment of animals at rodeos, developed by the Australian Professional Rodeo Association Inc (APRA) and the National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare Standards (NCCAW) provided some protection. However, not all rodeo organisers and participants were members of APRA, and adoption of these codes was voluntary, even for APRA members. The NCCAW Standards outlined the responsibilities of rodeo organisers with regard to care of livestock, equipment specifications, stock and arena selection and use of animals, as well as specifying the type of events that could be held. But as compliance was not compulsory, rodeos run and organised by groups outside APRA were not bound by these rules.
Fortunately, the 2008 amendments to the Animal Welfare Act now include sections specifically relating to rodeos, their organisation and their operation. Section11A of the Act stipulates a veterinary surgeon must be present at all events of a rodeo which involve animals and bans the riding of sheep, goats or calves. Section 11B spells out the authority of the veterinarian present to safeguard the welfare of animals participating.
In addition to these new amendments, a Code of Practice is currently being drafted to augment the legislation. Any breaches of this Code will constitute a breach of the Act and can result in prosecution.
These development have provided a huge boost to the RSPCA's campaign against rodeos. However, we will continue to push for a ban on this cruel 'sport'.
RSPCA Tasmania's position
Although laws now exist in relation to rodeos, RSPCA Tasmania believes the current regulation of these events still does not go far enough.
RSPCA believes that while the introduction of new legislation and the impending Code of Practice will improve the treatment of and conditions for animals forced to take part in Tasmanian rodeos, it will not completely safeguard them against injury and death. Only a total ban will guarantee that no animal is ever again harmed at a rodeo event.
Despite growing outrage over the treatment of animals at rodeos, the Tasmanian Government has ruled out a total ban in this State.
The reality of rodeos is very different than that of the public image. They are cruel and unnatural for all animals, inflicting pain, undue stress, and even death on cattle and horses. The RSPCA is opposed to rodeos for these reasons and demands a complete ban on these activities.
In addition, the RSPCA is calling for clear accountability and the understanding that someone must take overall responsibility for the welfare and treatment of animals at these events.
What can you do?
Join the RSPCA to help lobby for the banning of rodeos. You can write to your local politician, write to your local newspaper, take the online poll or fill out the petition that appears in RSPCA Tasmania's 'The Buck Stops Here' brochure available at any shelter.
What are Rodeos?
Rodeo is a sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States and Canada. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys. Today it is a sporting event consisting of several different timed and judged contests involving cattle and horses, designed to test the skill and speed of the human 'athletes'.
In Tasmania, the rodeo season runs from November through to March each year.
The horses or bulls are driven into a frenzy by the painful flank strap around the sensitive genital area which causes the animal to buck violently. This flank strap is suddenly pulled tight just as the horse or bull is let out into the arena. Prior to this, the animals are comparatively calm.
A calf is released from a chute into the arena and chased on horseback. Once the calf has been lassoed around the neck, the horse will skid to a halt and the rider must leap from the horse and tie three of the calf´s legs within 30 seconds. The terrified calf has a very high risk of injury as they are travelling at high speed when lassoed.
A steer is released and chased by two riders. One rider keeps the steer running in a straight line, while the other grabs the steer by the horns and leaps from his horse. He twists the steer´s neck to force him to fall to the ground. The contestant has 30 seconds from the time the steer is released to throw him to the ground. Apart from the stress of this brutal treatment, it can also injure the neckof the steer. Strained muscles and tendons are painful, but are not visible to the audience.
When the steer is released from the chute, a pair of horsemen attempts to rope him within 30 seconds. One rope must be around the horns, neck or half a head, while the other must be around the back legs. A correctly roped steer is stretched between the horses and will usually fall to the ground.