An ejection at the Calgary Stampede over an alleged case of animal abuse has rodeo fans up in arms, while animal rights activists want further sanctions.
The Calgary Stampede came to a close this past weekend at the annual 10-day celebration of Western heritage in Canada. Known for its rodeo and chuckwagon races the Calgary Stampede brings in 1.2 million visitors. This year the event attracted some unwanted attention for the handling of livestock.
On Wednesday, 3-time world champion tie-down roper and 2011 Calgary Stampede champion Tuf Cooper was disqualified from the event for animal mistreatment. Cooper had whipped his horse, Rio, 6 times with his rope after Rio was slow coming out of the box.
It was the first time in the history of the Calgary Stampede that a competitor was ejected for the “mistreatment of livestock.”
Cooper took his punishment and left Calgary without raising a fuss. However, the calf roper’s team released a statement questioning the motives of the rodeo:
“The decision of the Calgary judges comes from a long time fight with animal activists that want to get rid of calf roping all together. If the Calgary Stampede keeps making rules up as they go, to please animal activists, there will be no Stampede in years to come.”
Rodeo fans also came to Cooper’s support on social media:
Other events at the Calgary Stampede allow for horses to be encouraged with a whip including the chuckwagon races and barrel racing. Whips are also common in the sport of horse racing and this year’s Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was cracked 32 times during his victory at the Kentucky Derby.
The larger problem for the Calgary Stampede aren't the allegations levied at Cooper, but the horses that had to be euthanized after chuckwagon races.
Before the case involving Cooper, two horses were injured in separate incidents during the Rangeland Derby and were put down.
Following the team ropers disqualification another two horses had to be euthanized.
Prior the races each horse is examined by a veterinarian to determine if they are healthy to run in the Rangeland Derby. If they are not they stay in the barn. The past two years only two horses had to be put down after the races, but with four deaths this year Calgary Stampede officials will look at what additional measures can be taken to prevent these accidents.
Animal Justice, an animal rights group in Canada, had already asked the Calgary Humane Society to enforce animal protection laws against the Calgary Stampede.
After the event ended Animal Justice issued a statement about the horses being euthanized following the chuckwagon races:
“Rodeo is so inherently inhumane that virtually all major animal welfare organizations oppose it. It’s no wonder that many years after the Stampede introduced its own animal safety rules, animal cruelty continues to run rampant. It’s time for law enforcement to crack down on rodeo cruelty.”
While the deaths of the horses are unfortunate accidents do happen and often the most humane way to handle the situation is through euthanasia.
For animal agriculture this year’s Calgary Stampede serves as a very public example of how handling livestock can be scrutinized by some and celebrated by others. Never the less, if century-old organizations like the Calgary Stampede can give in so easily to animal rights activists, then livestock producers have a lot to be worried about.