Sea Shepherd bucks against rodeos

Rodeo rider John Howlett pictured in action at a local rodeo event.
Rodeo rider John Howlett pictured in action at a local rodeo event. David Nielsen

ANIMAL rights group Sea Shepherd has aimed a direct shot at a popular Northern Rivers past-time with claims of animal abuse and injury.

Home to national bull riding champion Dave Kennedy and with a healthy participation in many local rodeos, as seen by the recent success of the annual Kyogle Bull Ride Spectacular, the Northern Rivers has come under fire by the group.

Claims of abuse at rodeos have included electric prodding, horses and bulls with broken backs and necks in bucking events, and cattle with broken legs in roping events.

“I believe that rodeos are a cruel form of entertainment,” Brisbane co-ordinator Michael Dalton wrote in a recent letter to local councils.

“These events ... pose a high risk of cruelty and subject animals to stress.

“(Animals are) shocked with electric prods (and) kicked and cut with spurs.”

Rodeo animal welfare has come a long way in 40 years according to the executive chairman of the Australian Professional Rodeo Association, John Osborne.

“Nowadays arenas are all ploughed so there are no hard surfaces,” he said.

“The rules for competitions are quite severe. If you cut with a spur that is an instant disqualification.”

Mr Osborne said the use of electric prods or ‘hot shotting’ was strictly limited.

“If a bull isn’t moving in the chute you can hot shot him to ensure his safety and that of the competitor,” he said.

“But if a judge found out the owner was hot shotting every bull out one after the other, he’d be in trouble.”

According to Mr Osborne the injury rate of rodeo animals in the last 10 years is about 0.02 per cent.

“I’ve competed in rodeos for 35 years and never broke any cattle’s legs,” he said.

“We can prove at the end of every rodeo all the injuries as we have to fill out a form that goes back to the government office.”

It doesn’t seem rodeos will be disappearing from the Northern Rivers social agenda too soon with the Mallanganee Festival and Bull Ride happening this Saturday.

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