Lynn Charlton: Court action taken to round up rodeos


As someone who has filmed at rodeos since 2013, the news is welcome that Save Animals From Exploitation and the New Zealand Animal Law Association are lassoing the Government into court over failing to ban rodeos.

It is also being celebrated by animal lovers around the world.

After years of shocking annual footage (with media issuing warnings to viewers), protests, a 60,000 signature petition, backing from the SPCA, a report on the legality of rodeos, an expert committee opinion, much interest from the public and media, both National and Labour governments have dodged taking any meaningful action and the blatant abuse of animals has continued.

The current Government has failed to act not only on promises made to ban flank straps, calf roping and other aspects of rodeo, but failed to act in a protective way on 2018 expert committee findings on the impacts of rodeo on animals.

Setting up rodeo animal welfare committees made up of the so-called “cowboys” who commit the violence, and sending the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) officers to every rodeo does not stop what happens to calves.

They are choked, sent airborne, somersaulting and slamming to the ground as always, watched by the rodeo animal welfare committee and MPI officers.

It does not stop steers having their necks wrenched and twisted 180 degrees until pain causes them to collapse.

It does not stop horses and bulls being spurred in the shoulders, necks and flanks or being forced to wear a flankstrap, or steers having their legs pulled out from under them while someone pulls their head in the opposite direction.

Paperwork and meetings does not stop the violence.

Every time I see correspondence from Damien O’Connor or Meka Whaitiri, I see fluff-talk about animal welfare. Their welfare is clearly not a priority.

Rodeos banned the public photographing and videoing while making nonsense claims about footage being altered and animals loving what they do.

At some rodeos, clubs are only too willing to form a pack to harass, block, shove and threaten activists quietly filming, as happened in 2019 at the notorious Mid Northern rodeo.

They know what they do to animals is wrong.

Unfortunately, every government is afraid to upset the farming community which holds the rodeos, provides the animals, most of the contestants and helpers, and the majority of the spectators.

While some farmers do not support rodeos, there is no escaping the fact farming is intricately involved: If they stopped providing the animals, rodeos would end overnight.

What is bizarre upon the litany of bizarre, is the risk rodeos pose to our international reputation and especially now, while we negotiate new trade deals, including with the UK where rodeo was banned almost 100 years ago on animal cruelty grounds. (The British Rodeo Association does not allow what is allowed here and focuses on western riding.)

We cannot legitimately claim high animal welfare standards when we hold violence-as-entertainment animal shows.

We are also one of only a handful of countries in the world – with the UK, Ireland, Australia, US, Vietnam, China and Mexico – that allow greyhound racing for gambling.

It’s time New Zealand got serious about animal welfare.

No more pen-pushing, fluff-talk and dodging.

Our attitude towards animals needs a serious overhaul, as they are part of the world and the planet and have every right to be here too.

• Lynn Charlton is a psychotherapist, animal advocate and the spokesperson for Anti Rodeo Action NZ

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