Mid Northern Rodeo animal handler guilty of animal cruelty – SAFE

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SAFE welcomes the news that an animal handler at the Mid Northern Rodeo has been formally warned for cruelty by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) but says it is not enough. Charges were laid over evidence compiled by volunteer investigators from Anti-Rodeo Action NZ at the rodeo, in January 2017, showing young calves being shocked with an electric prod – cruelty which is prohibited under the Rodeos Code of Welfare – as well as inflicting painful electric shocks on older cattle, deemed unnecessary and unreasonable, which contravenes Section 29(a) of the Animal Welfare Act.

“At every single rodeo we see abuse of the most vulnerable of animals,” says SAFE campaigns director Mandy Carter. “In calf roping, weeks old calves are forced to endure being chased, wrenched off their feet by ropes, slammed to the ground, then have their legs roughly tied together. Even worse, at the Mid Northern Rodeo they were goaded with painful electric shocks before even entering the arena. This kind of treatment of those who most need our protection cannot be allowed to continue. MPI must take urgent action to prohibit rodeo events, starting with calf roping.”

In 2014, three formal warnings under the Rodeos Code of Welfare led to the closure of Huntly Rodeo, after rodeo officials stated they could not guarantee the safety of the animals at future events. In November 2016, MPI confirmed that seven rodeos were in breach of the Rodeos Code of Welfare in the 2014/15 season, with numerous breaches in the following season. MPI are still investigating complaints from the 2016/17 season.

The latest footage on which the formal MPI warning to the Mid Northern Rodeo animal handler was based, shocked New Zealanders. It includes young calves being shocked with an electric prod while confined in a ‘chute’, (an enclosed area used prior to the animal being forced out into the arena), unable to escape, which led to the warning by MPI as a contravention of the Rodeos Code of Welfare.

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Further rough treatment of animals was also filmed:
• A young calf being roughly flipped in mid-air and slammed to the ground as he was hooked around his hooves by a lasso during a calf roping event
• A bull crawling on his knees, in a desperate attempt to get away from rodeo performers
• Horses slipping and falling
• A rodeo performer roughly wrenching a calf’s leg and body in his attempt to tie the animal’s legs together
• A horse frantically jumping up at a fence, attempting to escape from the pen where the animals are confined before entering the arena

Exposure of this footage led to a number of sponsors dropping their support of the rodeo after being contacted by SAFE and members of the public, including LJ Hooker, Harcourts and Ray White.

“Rather than MPI relying on volunteer investigators to film and report cruelty to animals, we need urgent action to stop it happening in the first place,” says Ms Carter. “The only way these animals will properly be protected is if rodeo is declared history. Rodeo is inherently cruel. It’s clear that people involved with rodeo are simply unable to even uphold the most meagre animal welfare regulations, so there is no alternative to a ban.”

Animal suffering at rodeo events seems to be condoned by the New Zealand government after a select committee last year chose to put no restrictions on rodeo practices. This flies in the face of strong public opinion calling for an end to this bullying of animals, evidenced by the 62,000 people who signed a petition for a rodeo ban.

“Animals suffer for the entertainment of a minority,” says Ms Carter. “History shows that eventually these activities won’t be tolerated by society. The repeated breaches of the Rodeos Code of Welfare, and this most recent warning show that the regulations fall well short in protecting animals. The only real solution is a rodeo ban, with an immediate end to calf roping being a top priority.”