I never enjoyed rodeo festivals, but I’ve been to a few as a teenager. They were (and still are) popular in Brazil, where I grew up. I ended up going because they included in their calendar concerts of artists I liked. As I became more informed, I realized it didn’t matter if I wasn’t watching the rodeo activities. From the moment I bought my ticket and walked past the gate, I was supporting animal abuse.
I had to deal with the culture of rodeo also as a journalist. An organization I worked for and one of the top rodeos in the country were partners. The event was always on the cover of a magazine I was responsible for. A few years went by, and a lot of conversations took place until I finally heard, “you decide what to do.” Well, I still had to write about the rodeo festival, as it gathered around 100,000 people in two weekends, if I remember it correctly.
The good news is, I could focus on the concerts and pretend the rodeo activities didn’t exist. It wasn’t easy to completely ignore something that a lot of people wanted to read. But I did my best with the power I had at the time.
Recently, I’ve read stories about rodeos in Canada. I didn’t know these events were so popular here too. But I’m glad that, at least, there are mixed feelings about them.
In 2006, Vancouver City Council voted unanimously to prohibit some rodeo activities. As they’re essential to a professional rodeo, the resolution helped ban rodeos from here, and made Vancouver the first major Canadian city to prohibit them. This decision speaks volumes, says the Vancouver Humane Society. The public no longer accepts animal mistreatment. Although some deny it, rodeo is synonym of animal suffering. According to PETA, electric prods, spurs and bucking straps are used to irritate and enrage the animals. Cows and horses are often prodded with an electrical “hotshot” before entering the ring. Why? So that the pain will rile them. On purpose, folks.
Most rodeos involve the use of fear, stress or pain to make animals perform. On its website, the Vancouver Humane Society mentions that the animal behaviourist, Dr. Temple Grandin, has argued that fear is “so bad” for them that it’s worse than pain.
Can you stop for a second and think about what you just read? Fear is so bad that it’s worse than pain. If we wouldn’t permit that our dogs and cats faced this stressful environment, why are we okay with cows, calves, horses and steers facing it? Not only can the animals face stress when participating in rodeo activities, but also be severely injured or killed. We can’t accept the allegations of tradition or entertainment to justify the mistreatment of animals who are sentient beings like us.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) informs on its website the situations where rodeo events would be considered acceptable, and the practices that are considered inhumane and unjustified. It’s better than nothing, but it’s far from the ideal world. Think twice before going to rodeos. If you don’t go, you’re not financing them. Consequently, they'll end their activities. Let's show that we care.
Photo credit: © Marji Beach under Creative Commons via Flickr