Rodeo protests prompt debate over evidence of animal cruelty

Drive 13/01/2018
Photo: File.

Animal rights activists are gearing up for rodeo season with promises to protest the practise they argue is cruel and inhumane.

Michael Laws, former MP and NZ Rodeo Cowboys Association spokesman, joins Summer Drive with Lloyd Burr to discuss why animal welfare organisations have got the facts wrong.

Mr Laws was asked to represent rodeo organisers after they felt unfairly attacked for their activities.

Since he had never been to a rodeo before, Mr Laws took it upon himself to attend some events and research the issue before agreeing to represent the Rodeo Cowboys Association.

You can’t have an argument unless you have the facts.

Canterbury Rodeo assures visitors on their homepage to that there is no animal cruelty at their event, stating that they “take Animal Welfare very seriously.”

Rodeos have been called ‘inherently cruel’ by animal welfare organisations like Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) NZ. These organisations cite that the animals are stressed, frightened, sustain injuries, and are tormented for the entertainment of the audience.

“It is a lie,” Mr Laws says on the claims by animal welfare organisations.

“I’m sure they believe [animal cruelty exists],” he says. “With the same sort of religious fervour that attracts some people into cults.”

In 2016, SAFE and other welfare organisations went in front of Parliament to urge them to ban rodeo in New Zealand. Their call for rodeo restrictions led to no changes to the Rodeo Code of Welfare.

Animal welfare groups speak out

Apollo Taito, Direct Animal Action spokesman, later joins the conversation to discuss the animal welfare side of the issue.

Mr Laws urges Mr Taito to join him at a rodeo to properly understand the event.

“The reality is if you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s very hard to be taken credibly,” Mr Laws says.

“It’s a bit like me talking about sex if I was a virgin.”

Direct Animal Action promises to hold large "stop" signs at the entrance of Mid Northern Rodeo at Whangarei on Saturday, calling on the government to ban rodeo events in New Zealand.

“Why would I go [to a rodeo] to see something I know is wrong?” asks Mr Taito.

We’ve got nothing against the farming community or the people in rodeos.

His group wants rodeos to be banned in New Zealand because animals are “forced to ‘perform’ using different forms of torture and abuse.”

“There is enough footage out there that’s coming out year after year that shows the animals are in distress and in pain,” says Mr Taito.

“We’ve got nothing against the farming community or the people in rodeos,” says Mr Taito. “What we are against is the practise itself.”

Listen to the full interview with Michael Laws and Apollo Taito above.

Summer Drive with Lloyd Burr, 3pm - 6pm weekdays on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.