Government says 'no' to calls for rodeo bans
It's a win for the cowboys with the government refusing to ban rodeos.
But the Associate Minister of Agriculture Meka Whaitiri has issued a warning that welfare measures must be adhered to, adding that ways to improve animal welfare would be explored.
The announcement is a firm line in the sand following a number of calls from animal welfare group Safe to ban the sport.
And it comes after a number of major businesses including Foodstuffs, LJ Hooker New Zealand, Saddlery Warehouse, Stuff, Meridian Energy, House of Travel, Bayleys, and Harcourts, withdrew sponsorship in relation to the animal cruelty claims made by advocacy groups.
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"Apart from the fact they're well-attended and they're the hub of small communities around New Zealand, there is already some banning of actions under the current Animal Welfare Act, so this is around making it really clear to rodeos that I expect them to adhere to it.
"Breaking it down, there are specific concerns the use of electric prods for example, tail twisting, which are all banned or currently addressed under the regulations for animal welfare that are due to come up for signing by Cabinet this year," Whaitiri said.
"But the areas they don't address, then I am making sure that I am addressing it through my officials and through the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee."
On the advice of that committee a code for rodeos was issued in 2014, that contained minimum standards the prevented the use of pyrotechnic displays and sheep riding events. It also set standards for animal handling and equipment.
It is a requirement for veterinarian and an animal welfare officer to be present at every rodeo.
Whaitiri said she had heard the concerns of animal rights activists and the government would be addressing welfare concerns through regulations rather than an outright ban.
"I have asked [the committee] to fast track further advice on rodeos this year. In the meantime, the Ministry for Primary Industries continues to enforce current animal welfare requirements, and investigates any complaints into rodeos."
It was a decision opposition spokesman Nathan Guy supported.
"I've lived this issue for five years as a previous minister, there's been changes that were made when I was a minister, it's been through the advisory committee - they have made changes.
"That committee is made up of scientists, veterinarians and lay people. They've had a big look at this issue and so has the select committee last year and has rejected any changes."
He said rodeos were "very important" to rural communities.
"And because of the processes around rodeos, now needing a vet and an SPCA person on site, I feel that that's entirely appropriate."
Animal welfare group Safe campaigns director Mandy Carter has called rodeos the "bullying" of animals "for the fun of pseudo cowboys".
However, New Zealand Rodeo and Cowboys Association spokesman Michael Laws has said rodeo sponsors had been bullied and harassed by animal activists.