In celebration of Montreal’s 375 anniversary, part of the festivities will be a rodeo. Live animal events will include bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding and speed events (barrel race, rescue race and exchange rider race).
The Vancouver Humane Society explains that with bareback and bull riding, riders compete to see who can stay mounted on a bucking horse for a set time. A “flank strap” is tied around the horse’s sensitive hindquarters to make him buck. The horse will buck until the strap is released. The horse is clearly being tormented by the flank strap and the desire to get the rider off. A flank strap is also used in bull riding for the same purpose.
Over the years, the cruelty of rodeos has been well documented.
SHARK obtained video footage of injuries to bucking horses: http://www.sharkonline.org/index.php/animal-cruelty/rodeo-cruelty
For barrel racing, even with injuries horses are forced to compete. This 2011 study of Barrel Racing Horses with Lameness from the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, concludes that almost 50% of barrel racing horses studied had mild to moderate lameness. In a performance follow-up, researchers observed
Despite being diagnosed with at least 2/5 lameness after forced ﬂexion (LAFF), 10 of the horses were subsequently placed in the “top 10” of their respective classes, and six were class winners at the National Barrel Racing Championships held the following year. This indicates that in high-performing barrel racing horses, some degree of LAFF, even associated with radiographic abnormalities of the MCP joint, may not be completely detrimental to performance ability. The overall champion for that year was grade 4/5 MCP joint lame after forced ﬂexion, a week before our examination. [NOTE: for this study, “lameness at trot was scored on a scale of 0-5 (0 = sound; 5 = inability to move)]
And the risk of injury or death is not limited to the animals used. In 2011, researchers deemed bull riding the most dangerous organized sport in the world (for Butterwick’s 2003 study, click here). In a 2013 news article, one on-site (human) medical team says that bull riding accounts for about half of rodeo injuries, followed by bareback riding (about 23 percent) and saddle bronc riding (at about 16 percent).
Clearly sensitive to the public’s concerns regarding the use of animals, the company hired to organize Montreal’s rodeo explains its position on animal welfare: www.nomadfest.ca/en/rodeo/animal-welfare/ Counter arguments to common claims by the industry can be found on the Vancouver Humane Society‘s website:
1. Rodeo animals are valuable, so they would not be mistreated or put at risk.
This is like saying that race car drivers would not put their valuable cars at risk in motor racing. Of course they do because the financial rewards outweigh the risk. The same is true in professional rodeo, which offers large cash prizes and generates significant revenue for those involved. The animals are valuable because they are put at risk. It is the violent, physical nature of the events that provides sensation and suspense that rodeo fans enjoy.
2. Rodeo animals are just like athletes in other rough sports.
Except that rodeo animals, unlike human athletes, have no choice in the matter. Is it likely a calf or steer would choose to be roped and thrown to the ground? Would a bull choose to be goaded into an arena of thousands of screaming people with someone on his back and a belt tied around his groin?
3. Rodeo is a valuable part of our western heritage and tradition.
In fact, most rodeo events bear little or no resemblance to real ranch practices, historic or modern. For example, why would a real cowboy ride a bull? Why would a real cowboy want to make a horse buck with a flank strap? A key issue is that rodeo events are timed, whereas real ranch practices are not. Timing makes these events faster, more stressful and more dangerous to the animals. Real calf-roping on ranches is a far more gentle practice in which calves are roped at slow speeds.
4. Rodeo animals are big and strong, with thick hides.
Just because an animal is large or has great strength doesn’t mean it can’t suffer. The injuries and deaths sustained by many rodeo animals make it obvious they are subject to violence, which in turn must cause pain. A thick hide, although it might obscure bruising, does little to protect animals against broken limbs, the pain of tail twisting or the hard kick of a cowboy boot. In any case, as has been stated by animal behaviourist Temple Grandin, it is likely that fear may be more stressful for animals than pain.
5. Rodeo is popular and is treated as family entertainment in many places, so how can it be wrong?
Just because an activity is popular does not mean it is morally acceptable. Many activities that were considered popular and socially acceptable in the past are no longer tolerated, such as: circus freak shows featuring disabled and deformed people; black and white minstrel shows; cock-fighting; bear baiting, etc. As society seeks to become more civilized many such activities are banned. It should be remembered that in our own history many people routinely attended public executions.
How You Can Help
Please contact the people who can end the cruelty.
We need to keep the pressure on Mayor Denis Coderre, the Minister of Tourism and Serge Postigo, assistant director of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations. So please, call, write or email them today. You may use our form below or use this letter as a template.
Mayor Denis Coderre
275 rue Notre-Dame Est
Montréal, QC H2Y 1C6
Tel: 311 (de l’extérieur de l’île de Montréal : 514 872-0311)
Ministère du Tourisme
1255, rue Peel
Montréal, QC H3B 4V4
Commissaire adjoint aux célébrations
395 boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest,
Montréal, QC H3A 1L6
Tel: (514) 908-0375 ext: 124
Organizations Against Montreal’s Rodeo