VHS and animal advocates across Canada are relieved and pleased that no animal deaths were reported at this year’s Calgary Stampede.
The Stampede says that safety measures it implemented for its chuckwagon race have had an impact. We hope that is the case, but in fact it’s too soon to say.
There have been three years since 1986 in which there were no animal deaths at the Stampede (1993, 1998, 2003) yet animals continued to die in the intervening years. Only when a sustained pattern is established, with consecutive years free of animal deaths, will it be clear that the safety improvements have worked. (It should also be noted that there was a near-disaster in this year’s race when a chuckwagon flipped over, tossing the driver to the ground.)
It’s also important to note that the safety measures the Stampede has introduced this year, and in previous years, have only come about because of the attention that VHS has drawn to the chuckwagon race and rodeo events.
The resulting media and public pressure have forced the Stampede to take action, although they are unlikely to admit that is the case.
VHS’s supporters and animal advocates who have spoken out across the country should be proud that they have helped hold the Calgary Stampede’s management accountable for the safety of the animals it uses.
But no one should forget that, despite the fact no animals died this year, many animals continue to suffer in the rodeo events. VHS’s focus is, and always has been, on cruel events such as calf-roping and steer-wrestling – which we have asked the Stampede to ban.
Rodeo animals are subjected to fear, pain and stress for the sake of entertainment. That is unethical and unacceptable. Three-month-old calves continue to be chased, roped, tied up and thrown to the ground. Steers continue to have their necks twisted until they fall to the ground. Bulls and horses continue to have bucking straps tightened around their hindquarters to make them buck. All this to amuse a crowd.
Until animal suffering is eliminated from the Stampede and other rodeos, VHS will continue to oppose these events. We will continue to draw public attention to the plight of rodeo animals and we will always speak out on their behalf.
It is only public pressure that will force rodeos to take animal welfare seriously. Our supporters have been instrumental in creating that pressure and we thank all of you for standing up for rodeo animals. You are making a difference.