Only 26 days to the Calgary Stampede. Yee-haw! This is our premier event of the year—the greatest outdoor show on Earth. Mostly it's great fun for Calgarians and visitors alike: agricultural exhibits, a huge midway, entertainment from around the world plus Calgary's very own Young Canadians, Stampede breakfasts, endless bar-hopping—10 days of fun and frolic.
And then there's the rodeo—10 days of animal abuse posing as sport. I was gratified therefore to see that the Vancouver Humane Society has begun its annual event—censuring the Stampede rodeo. This year it's petitioning CBC Sports to end its coverage.
The society claims the rodeo subjects animals to "fear, pain and stress" in events that are "self-evidently inhumane." Its point is well taken. Chasing a small animal across a field, stopping it abruptly with a rope around its neck, heaving it into the air and slamming it down, and finally tying it up, would certainly seem to be self-evidently inhumane, inflicting fear, pain and stress.
That's the fine sport of calf roping. Then there's the king of rodeo sports—bronc riding. Broncs buck out of fear. A horse is a prey animal and when something large leaps on its back, it instinctively assumes the something large is a predator. In sheer terror, it bucks to get the damn thing off. Such is the life of a bronc—an endless round of one episode of terror followed by another.
Rodeo is considered inhumane by virtually all major animal welfare agencies, including the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, and the national SPCAs of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Both the Calgary Humane Society and the Alberta SPCA, on the other hand, work with the Stampede, making the intervention of the Vancouver Humane Society doubly welcome.
The Stampede seems blind to its own barbarity, insisting that as valued assets its animals get the best of treatment. No doubt they do. In the same way race car teams take good care of their valued assets. But animals aren't cars; they are sentient beings. Quality food and shelter aren't adequate for creatures that live not only physical lives, but mental and emotional lives as well. Rodeo assaults these unfortunates at all three levels. If the Vancouver Humane Society can help put an end to the suffering, more power to them, says this Calgarian.