Rodeos Are Outdated and Cruel
Each year across Australia and New Zealand, thousands of gentle bulls and calves are abused in front of jeering crowds at cruel and archaic events called rodeos. T hese events began back in the 1920s (before indigenous Australians were even considered citizens, to give you an idea of how outdated these spectacles are !) , as a way for station hands to show off.
Rodeos are founded on speciesism and cruelty. They usually involve several particularly abusive events, namely bull and “bronc” (horse) riding, calf roping, and steer wrestling. Many events see animals who have been confined and provoked forced to “put on a show” by being chased – which is terrifying for these prey animals – and abused.
Bull and Bronc Riding
Bull and bronc riding are particularly associated with rodeos.
Eyewitness reports and video footage have revealed bulls and broncs being provoked via electric prodding , kicking, hitting, and tail pulling before being released from a chute with a rider on their back. While the rider clings on, trying to remain saddled for as long as they can (or for eight seconds in bronc riding), the disoriented and agitated animal attempts to throw them off.
These animals are far from willing participants in such spectacles. Bulls and horses instinctively buck and twist in response to being kicked with spurs and tightly bound with flank straps around their sensitive underbellies. In their panicked state – akin to the stress these animals would feel when trying to evade a predator – the animals may run into solid objects, stumble awkwardly, or suffer a dangerous fall.
In calf roping, calves as young as 4 months old are released into the arena and chased by a “roper” on horseback. The roper’s goal is to lasso the animal around the neck and then yank the rope to bring them to the ground on their back so that they can restrain the calf by tying three of their legs together . Aside from the injuries that these calves can sustain, research shows that the baby animals experience fear and pain throughout the ordeal .
Calf roping is so cruel that it’s effectively been banned in South Australia and Victoria, where cattle used in rodeos must weigh at least 200 kilograms.
Like calf roping, steer wrestling involves a mounted rider pursuing a frightened animal. A rider ropes a steer around the horns then wrestles them to the ground before tying the animal’s hooves together.
As no independent review of the industry exists, injuries are not recorded. Although exact figures are unknown, Professional Bull Riders Australia estimates that one bull in every 100 rodeos will be injured while being used in these events .
Because each state has different animal welfare regimes, there is no Australia-wide protection for these animals. While Queensland prohibits the use of prodders on horses, Victoria prohibits “excessive” use of electric prodders on cattle, and the Australian Capital Territory has banned rodeos entirely, all other states and the Northern Territory continue to allow the use of electric prodders on both cattle and horses.
Therefore, much of what happens to animals in rodeos – and many of the things that result in fear, torment, and the risk of serious injury – are legal.
Abuse Outside the Arena
Animal suffering goes beyond the rodeo itself. Animals exploited by these events also endure forced breeding and spend long hours being hauled from event to event in cramped transport trucks – where they are confined for up to 10 hours at a time .
When the animals become too tired or injured to continue, they are typically sent to slaughter.
How You Can Help
Rodeo riders voluntarily risk injury in these events for a chance to win thousands of dollars in prize money , but the animals they use have no such choice.
Just like with all attractions that exploit animals, the best way to help the bulls, calves, and horses used in rodeos is to never attend these events and choose cruelty-free entertainment instead.