Defending rodeos: The animal entertainment debate
Debate about rodeos in Australia have heated up this season following the death of a bull in Dungog NSW and the euthanasia of four animals last year from injuries.
The ACT, Great Britain and parts of Europe and New Zealand have already prohibited rodeos and the Australian Greens have been lobbying to abolish the sport nationally.
The RSPCA website says that there is little evidence that animals ‘enjoy’ rodeos. The foundation argues that bucking is triggered by the instinctive reaction to the flank strap and “being kicked with spurs.”
John Gill a rodeo producer and stockman contractor said that rodeo animals are bred with a stronger front end and trained in the sport. He said that the flank strap used in rodeos is no different to a trotting harness and encourages the horse to buck in a way that won’t jar his legs.
“The stress is taken out of them before they are 12 months old by hand feeding…and we still do that for our bucking bulls today. A real bucking bull today back at home, you can stand beside the feed trough and pat him on the head. Out in the arena if you are in his way he can send you 20 ft in the air. But they are educated long before they go to the rodeo,” Gill said.
Mr Gill also stressed that the welfare of rodeo animals and code of practice are taken seriously.
“Because when you go out and feed your stock you are looking at something you have bred as a calf or horse. There is no other industry, like the cattle industry, where a bull can live longer than in rodeo. He can buck till he’s 15 or 16 years old, even stud bulls don’t make it to 5. In rodeo they even have a grave, I’ve got them at home.”
The death of a bull on the Easter weekend has fuelled debate about animal welfare as the rodeo circuit tours the country, including the Canberra region.
Meg Hobson visited the Queanbeyan Rodeo to discover more about the sport.