To call rodeos a form of animal abuse is no exaggeration. Perhaps most fans of this "sport" don't realize that the animals are being brutalized for their entertainment, and that thousands are hurt every year -- some fatally. Because of the violent nature of rodeo events (with names like bronco busting, calf roping, and steer roping), animals commonly suffer such serious injuries as torn ligaments, broken bones, fractured horns, internal bleeding, and even severed spinal cords or tracheas. After a lifetime of abuse and confinement, most ultimately end their lives in the slaughterhouse.
Rodeos began in the frontier days of the old west in America, when cowboys tamed wild beasts with brute strength and cunning. What they fail to acknowledge is that rodeos harm animals that are forced to "perform" in a competition that is essentially a display of human domination over other species.
It originated from the cattle drive, when cows were rounded up and led long distances as a herd to their eventual slaughter. At least cowboys living and working on the range developed practical skills like roping and wrestling cattle in order to manage the herd, which would provide food for settlers who, in those days, would not even know what a vegetarian was. Today's "cowboys" are far removed from any purpose but deliberately hurting animals for prize money and to prove that they are "tough" enough to "break" supposedly wild animals.
However, the majority of the animals used in rodeos—broncos, bulls, steers and calves—are completely domesticated and not naturally aggressive. Their wild behaviour in rodeo events is artificially induced by painful or irritating provocation like tail twisting or shocks from electric prods. For example, the rodeo industry claims that broncos naturally buck, but this is patently false. The reality is that horses won't buck unless handlers tighten a leather "flank strap" just below the rib cage. If you've ever been pinched in the sensitive nerve area around your abdomen, you may understand why a horse would instinctively buck in a hopeless attempt to escape the pressure. The strap is pulled so tightly that horses used in rodeos frequently exhibit open sores on their flanks caused by agitation from the strap. While the flank strap itself causes pain, the wild bucking that it induces can cause severe injuries and even fatalities.
In the notorious calf-roping event, cowboys demonstrate their ability to rope and tie up four- to five-month-old baby calves in the shortest amount of time. The calves burst from the gate at speeds approaching thirty miles per hour to escape handlers who twist and yank their tails. Cowboys then lasso the calves around the neck, often snapping their heads back as they come to an abrupt halt. Sometimes they are jerked over backwards in what rodeo participants call a "jerkdown." Competitors then slam the calves to the ground to stun them so they can tie their legs together. During these broadcasts , the camera always cuts away from the calf before he is thrown to the ground in order to spare the home audience the sight of such brutality.
Other rodeo events are just as cruel. In steer-wrestling, a "hazer" keeps the steer running in a straight line while a second mounted cowboy chases the steer, then grabs him by the horns and forcibly twists the steer's neck and slams him to the ground. In steer roping, the cowboy chases a speeding steer in horseback, then ropes him in such a way that the 500-600 pound animal flips over in the air and crashes to the ground on his back. Steer roping is so inherently cruel that it is usually held in only the most remote areas and at times of the day when the majority of rodeo attendees are unlikely to be present.
Because of the aggressive nature of rodeo events, animals commonly suffer serious injuries, such as torn ligaments, broken bones, fractured horns, internal bleeding, and even severed spinal cords or tracheas. A leading Veterinarian in America spoke at length after witnessing the devastating impact of rodeos on animals. According to Dr. Haber, "The rodeo folks send their animals to the packing houses where…I have seen cattle so extensively bruised that the only areas in which skin was attached [to the body] was the head, neck, legs and belly. I have seen animals with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and at times puncturing the lungs."
In Victoria it is compulsory to have a veterinarian in attendance. However, vets can't prevent injuries. They can only treat injuries after the event, or euthanasia severely injured animals.
How you can help!
In Victoria, Write to our Agriculture minister telling him we don’t want rodeos in our state.
Australian Labor Party
Minister for Agriculture
Ministerial Address: Level 22, 1 Spring Street, Melbourne 3000
Ministerial Phone: (03) 9658 4670
Ministerial Fax: (03) 9658 4671
In other states, look up your state minister for Agriculture
Send letters to local newspapers and the major metropolitan papers
Vote with your feet to stamp out rodeos. You can help put a stop to the mistreatment of animals by not attending and telling your friends not to attend.