GUEST BLOG: Apollo Taito – Why New Zealand should not have rodeos


Many moons ago my Uncle ‘volun’-told my little brother and I to kill a pig for a family feast. We killed it by placing a metal pipe across its throat, and pressed it down until the pig suffocated.  To this day I vividly remember the look of terror, distress and fear in the eyes of that pig.  Sadly, this is the same fear, I see in the eyes of calves when they are chased down, slammed to the ground and roped at rodeos. What is viewed as entertainment for the spectator, perceived as a sport for the cowboys, is experienced as a matter of life or death for the animals involved.

On Saturday 13th of January Direct Animal Action (DAA) will hold their 2nd protest of 2018 outside the rodeo in Whangarei. The primary goal is to call on the government to ban rodeos across Aotearoa, New Zealand. Our first protest was held on New Years day outside Warkworth rodeo, and was well attended by over a hundred kiwis from different parts of the upper North Island.

The New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association (NZRCA) desperate to brush the animal cruelty under the rug, recently hired Michael Laws as their new national spokesperson. A new polished public relations face, with the same old rhetoric based on three dogmatic themes:

1.      Rodeos are only an issue with ‘townies’, and strongly supported by rural provincial New Zealand.

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2.      It is good family friendly fun.

3.      No animals are hurt in Rodeos.

In regards to the first point, Kiwis of all backgrounds, including rural, are seeing rodeo for what it really is; People using force to violently dominate scared animals. New Zealanders from all walks of life are opening their eyes to how archaic and cruel this 50-year-old ‘tradition’ is.

Public outcry has alerted sponsors to the horrors of rodeo and many have since withdrawn their support and dissociating their brands from what is clearly animal abuse. The most recent sponsors to withdraw their sponsorship were the Lions Club New Zealand, an iconic community organisation that is as Kiwi as pavlova and jandals.

Addressing point number two regarding ‘family friendly fun’. How does that even work? Watching an adult chase a calf that is running away in terror. Throwing a rope around its neck. Pulling it into the air. Watching it slam into the ground. Then jumping on top of it and tying it up, while it struggles in distress. Let alone watching adults forcing themselves onto horses or bulls that don’t not want to be ridden, to watch them both tumble around in a dangerous dance. Often resulting in injuries for both parties involved. The cowboy might end up in the hospital, but walk away a hero, while for injured animals only a bullet awaits.


The final point postulated by NZRCA is that no animals are hurt in rodeos. Season after season video footage continually shows animals in distressing situations. The rodeos have not been happy with the footage coming out and some clubs are enforcing a ban on filming, turning away anyone trying to bringing video recording devices into their events.

I am frequently asked why DAA uses the term bullying in association with rodeos. Bullying is generally defined as:

“use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something”

By its very nature, rodeos encompass all the attributes of bullying.

Bullies enjoy an audience, whether active or passive. In many cases, it is the bully’s ability to create the illusion that he or she has the support of the majority present, that instills the fear of “speaking up” in others.

We will keep speaking up for the animals involved until rodeos are banned in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Apollo Taito is a professional manager in the health sector with more than 20 years of experience, he has worked for NGOs, Pacific health organisations and a large DHB. As a soldier and infantryman, Apollo has 18 years observing the complex culture of ‘Man’ and the art of ‘embracing the Suck’. Apollo is currently completing his Doctorate in health science, with a thesis on Governance. When he’s not on PlayStation or training, he dabbles with writing or loving and adoring his Danish wife Helene and two cats Mr Cuddles and Moonlight.


  1. It is time that this ahorrent spectacle is banned and the government must take action.

    Animal welfare right across the board is dismal in this country and that failure is evident in weak law and its lack of enforcement for what it is worth.

    Until attitudes change and we see the value in protecting all animals from torture and abuse then we will continue to fail in preventing fear , pain and death we have no right to inflict on defenceless living creatures.

    I hope the protest is successful and as a group you will petition the government to end this disgusting spectacle.

    Thank you Apollo and all supporters for your commitment to this campaign.

    • Oh goody, some more “whataboutism”. I was thinking that was only something Israel’s apologists were spewing these days.

      Doc, if you can’t differentiate between rodeos and the cruelty that entails, with horse racing, then you’re not paying attention.

      Rodeos are an American tradition with no relevance to NZ. Times up.

  2. Suffocating a pig with a metal pipe is cruel. Why didn’t you slit it’s throat? That would have been more humane, surely?
    As for rodeos, I hate the calf roping and the steer wrestling, they’re horrible. The poor baby calves, I feel so sorry for them. But I love the barrel racing. And I don’t see what’s wrong with the bucking horses and the bull riding? Admittedly I’ve only been to a couple of rodeos so maybe haven’t seen what others have seen, but why are these events cruel?

  3. Greyhound racing also needs a thorough probe. What happens to the hundreds (maybe thousands) of dogs every year who “don’t make it.?” The industry is very reluctant to talk about that and for too long they have been protected by governments with money in the industry.
    Just a quick search will throw up lots of horror stories about areas known as greyhound graveyards where “has been” racing greyhounds are killed or wounded and just dumped to die or thrown into lakes to drown.
    I’m not sure if it is so bad in NZ but suspicion remains.

  4. Sad and ugly – stop it now.
    Also, we are following in the footsteps of Mexico, one of the TPPa members:
    Mexico is home to a number of cruel festivals where animals are brutally injured and killed.

    (Torneo del Lazo takes place throughout the year in various Yucatán municipalities, where horses are trapped with bulls that severely injure and often times kill the horses. In this cruel spectacle, several cowboys ride horses that are chased in a rodeo by one or more bulls. When the bulls attack, they usually wound the horses by gutting them. Horses experience a long and painful death in front of crowds where children are present.

    We need your help to make sure that animals are no longer harmed and the event is banned. Please take a moment to ask Yucatán legislators to ban Torneo del Lazo once and for all.

    Humane Society International)

    NZ NAWAC advises govt on animal welfare – that’s like Maggie Barry being asked to protect Kiwis from water bottling axxeholes stealing our pristine water supply for free.
    Slippery slopes for NZ, when we are so keen to do business with the likes of tpp countries that welcome and encourage animal cruelty. As we treat animals, so we treat our people.

  5. Enough. No more of this outdated pointless cruelty to animals. Having “fun” at the expense of physically abusing animals is something only a psychopath could enjoy. I find nothing remotely funny or pleasureable able seeing a bobby calf dragged around by a rope. Anyone who believes otherwise, I invite them to try it out themselves.

  6. I’m not enamoured of either rodeo or racing. In racing horses are started in training when still immature, shod before their foot bones are fully formed, fed an unnatural diet which often causes gastric problems, kept in unnatural conditions and they run because there’s a load of other horses running and because a person is on their back or behind them in a sulky hitting them with a whip. The attrition rate in all the racing events is high- horses that don’t make the grade – i.e. are not fast enough, get an injury that is too expensive to fix or develop behavioural issues etc are sold sometimes to be retrained for some other discipline or – most commonly – killed for pet food. And all so people can gamble. As to rodeo – it’s ludicrous. NZ has no tradition of handling stock in this way – even in the USA it bears little resemblance to anything actual cowboys did or do. The roping of calves is just cruel; the bulls and broncs buck out of fear – and do not let any pro-rodeo person tell you different. If they removed the flank strap, chances are the animal would meander out of the gate and maybe trot around a bit. Watch the people controlling the gate – they tighten the flank strap just before the gate opens – and to stop the horse /bull bucking they have to release it – or the animal exhausts itself. The flank straps work because all prey animals are sensitive in the belly region – for obvious reasons. And as to the barrel racing and reining events – they are hard on the horses’ joints & the bits used in western riding are vicious. I could go on ….

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