Many moons ago my Uncle ‘volun’-told my little brother and I to kill a pig for a family feast. We killed it by placing a metal pipe across its throat, and pressed it down until the pig suffocated. To this day I vividly remember the look of terror, distress and fear in the eyes of that pig.
Sadly, this is the same fear, I see in the eyes of calves when they are chased down, slammed to the ground and roped at rodeos. What is viewed as entertainment for the spectator, perceived as a sport for the cowboys, is experienced as a matter of life or death for the animals involved.
On New Year’s Day 2020, Direct Animal Action (DAA) protested for the fifth year in a row outside the Warkworth Rodeo. Our peaceful protest was well attended by over 100 Kiwis from different parts of the upper North Island.
Our primary goal is to call on the Government to ban rodeos across Aotearoa, New Zealand.
We’re also petitioning the Rodney Local Board to ban the Warkworth Rodeo and all rodeo events on all land under their management. We’ll present our petition to the local board at their March 2020 business meeting.
Every rodeo season, the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association (NZRCA), desperate to brush the animal cruelty under the rug, pull out the same old rhetoric based on three dogmatic themes:
- Rodeos are only an issue with ‘townies’, and strongly supported by rural provincial New Zealand.
- It is good family friendly fun.
- No animals are hurt in rodeos.
- Rodeo adheres to animal welfare regulations.
In regards to the first point, Kiwis of all backgrounds, including rural, are seeing rodeo for what it really is: people using force to violently dominate scared animals. Kiwis from all walks of life are opening their eyes to how archaic and cruel this 60-year-old ‘tradition’ is.
Even if it were considered tradition by many, tradition is not an acceptable reason to perpetuate oppression. Do we grant traditions such as female genital mutilation or blackface social license because they are of a certain age?
Public outcry has alerted sponsors to the horrors of rodeo and many have since withdrawn their support and dissociating their brands from what is clearly animal abuse. Sponsors pulling their support has had a direct effect on the Mid Northern Rodeo in Whangarei which were forced to cancel their rodeo event originally planned for next weekend. That’s one less protest for our group this year.
Addressing point number two regarding ‘family friendly fun’. How does that even work? Watching an adult chase a calf that is running away in terror. Throwing a rope around their neck. Pulling them into the air. Watching them slam into the ground. Then jumping on top of them and tying them up, while they struggle in distress. Let alone watching adults forcing themselves onto horses or bulls that don’t not want to be ridden, to watch them both tumble around in a dangerous dance. Often resulting in injuries for both parties involved. The cowboy might end up in the hospital, but walk away a hero, while for injured animals only a bullet awaits.
The third point postulated by NZRCA is that no animals are hurt in rodeos. Season after season video footage continually shows animals in distressing situations. The rodeos have not been happy with the footage coming out and some clubs are enforcing a ban on filming, turning away anyone trying to bring video recording devices into their events.
To say that rodeo adheres to animal welfare regulations is exploiting a loophole. In 2018, the New Zealand Animal Law Association found rodeo to be illegal because it contravenes the Animal Welfare Act which says animals should be free from pain and distress. The Rodeo Code of Welfare allows rodeo cowboys to flout the law in the pursuit of their “sport”.
I am frequently asked why DAA uses the term bullying in association with rodeos. Bullying is generally defined as:
“Use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something.”
By its very nature, rodeos encompass all the attributes of bullying.
Bullies enjoy an audience, whether active or passive. In many cases, it is the bully’s ability to create the illusion that he or she has the support of the majority present that instills the fear of “speaking up” in others.
Rodeo isn’t us. We will keep speaking up for the animals involved until rodeos are banned in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Please sign Direct Animal Action’s petition to the Rodney Local Board: https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/stop-the-warkworth-rodeo
Apollo Taito is a campaigner for Direct Animal Action and a professional manager in the health sector with more than 20 years of experience. He has worked for NGOs, Pacific health organisations and NZs largest DHB. As a soldier and infantryman, Apollo has 18 years observing the complex culture of ‘Man’ and the art of ‘embracing the Suck’. Apollo is currently completing his Doctorate in health science, with a thesis on Governance. When he’s not working, studying or training, he dabbles with writing or loving and adoring his Danish wife Helene, daughter Athena, and two cats Mr Cuddles and Moonlight.