Max Christoffersen: Human entertainment no excuse for animal abuse

A bucking bull exacts some revenge at the Canterbury Rodeo.

A bucking bull exacts some revenge at the Canterbury Rodeo.

OPINION: I missed the moment the animals were supposed to be having fun.

Was it when they were electrocuted, had their necks twisted 180 degrees or was it when they flipped in the air with a rope tied around their neck?

Was it when they had their faces shoved in the dirt or when they were being thrown to the ground?

Protesters outside the Mid Northern Rodeo in Maungatapere.

Protesters outside the Mid Northern Rodeo in Maungatapere.

Was it when they were being provoked and tormented in closed stalls or was it when the calves were being ridden?

When exactly did the fun for the animals occur?

I also missed the moment when this was supposed to be a great day for family entertainment and I missed the moment when this was good role modelling for kids.

I think I missed all of it because all I could see were animals being abused, mistreated and injured for the bizarre fun of the spectators.

Today you can go and have some fun at the animals' expense at the Kihikihi rodeo. I won't be going. That anyone can go to rodeo and prop up the spectacle of animal abuse that is so blatantly obvious to all, continues to baffle.

Equally disturbing is the sight of kids being encouraged to participate in the barbaric practice of hurting animals for fun and having parents tell them the animals love it.

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Can we escape the rhetoric of the brave cowboys and their demonstration of skill against wild animals. The only reason these animals are wild is because they have been provoked and tormented to be so.

This imported American culture has little to do with New Zealand either as a tradition or a sport, it is a barbaric demonstration of how we have failed to progress as a nation concerned with animal welfare.

Rodeos are mandated animal abuse sanctioned by the organisers and supported by government.

Disturbing footage was released in January of animals being electrocuted at the Northland Rodeo and it revealed the illusion behind the spectacle – it's all premeditated abuse for effect.

Shocking animals is simply rodeo culture at work. What happens next is the scripted denial. In what must go down as quote of the year, NZ Rodeo Cowboys Association president Marty Deans denies any electric prodders were used on calves at the recent Mid Northern Rodeo.

He said while the footage showed a man holding an electric prodder moving his hand towards a calf, the man never used the prodder on a calf.

Which begs the question of why an electric prodder was needed at the event at all? A rodeo Tui billboard is required: Animals love Electric Prodders! Yeah Right.

The level of denial of the abuse from the supporters of rodeos is staggering, while vets are clear about what really happens. Veterinarian Stephanie Lane said risking injury and creating intense distress in the name of entertainment cannot be acceptable.

"It doesn't take an expert to see the fear in the eyes of the animals used in rodeos. A contest between a consenting 'man' and a scared, provoked animal surely cannot be regarded as sport. More so when the animal is a mere baby."

So how is this allowed to happen? The Animal Welfare Act states that animals be treated "in a manner which minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress".

Clearly the act is deficient. Here is the larger issue. The animals are expedient to political power. Government officials won't intervene because to do so risks losing the farming vote.

The Prime Minister sees no harm and likes rodeos according to a recent interview with National Radio's John Campbell.

Alongside the Prime Minister is Nathan Guy who heads the Ministry for Primary Industries. He is responsible for overseeing the welfare of animals. While nearly 30 complaints have been made to the ministry about the mistreatment of animals in rodeo in the past five years, no prosecutions have been taken.

Minister Nathan Guy said banning rodeos won't be happening.

"I believe that rodeos are an important part of New Zealand society, they've been functioning well here for 40 years. My concern with a ban on rodeos is where do you go next? Is it horse races, is it circuses, is it zoos?"

Where you go next Minister, is where there are breaches of the legislation for which you are responsible. Do I have to explain the function of a ministry to you? Do I have to explain what your job as a minister of the Crown is?

Where legislation is in place and there are breaches, you act on it.

If you are not acting on it, resign.

And so rodeos continue with animals injured, abused and tortured for fun.

Today there is a growing wave of people believing that rodeos are what they are, a perverted celebration of animal cruelty.

Let's end them.

 - Stuff


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