Rodeo kicks up debate
ONE of the region's most popular events may be facing some tough competition as animal rights group Animals Australia sets its sights on banning rodeos after retail giant Kmart pulled its support from the Mt Isa Rodeo.
Animals Australia was one of the welfare groups that brought attention to the live export industry, triggering the Federal Government to suspend the industry for a month while animal welfare standards were investigated.
The organisation's communications director Lisa Chalk said every animal protection group in the world opposed rodeos because of its inherent risk to animals.
"Many in the community may not even be aware that rodeos have already been banned in other countries such as the UK, in some parts of Europe and the US on the basis of unacceptable cruelty," she said.
"There are many other events that showcase true horsemanship without causing fear and distress to animals so we would like to see community events built around those that don't put animals at risk in the name of entertainment."
Ms Chalk said the group's main concern was the continuation of calf roping.
"Calf roping has been banned in South Australia and Victoria due to the risk of injury to such young animals," she said.
"Injuries caused by the force of lassoing and jerking to a halt then being thrown include tearing or stretching of ligaments, disc rupture, internal haemorrhaging to the thymus gland and trachea and subcutaneous tissue damage.
"Calves can suffer broken legs and even broken necks."
Ms Chalk said Kmart should be applauded for showing leadership on the issue and making a decision in the interests of animals.
"There are so many other local community events businesses can support that don't involve causing animals fear and distress in the name of entertainment," she said.
Ms Chalk said Animals Australia provided information and evidence about the inherent cruelty of rodeos to Kmart, enabling the company to make an informed decision about rodeo sponsorship.
"On June 14 they wrote to us stating: 'In light of the evidence that you have provided and outlining for us the potential for animal cruelty and negligence we have made a decision not to continue our sponsorship of the Mt Isa Rodeo. Whilst we believe this is the only rodeo that we have been involved in, we will look at ensuring no further activities like these are sponsored by Kmart'," she said.
But not everybody agrees rodeos should be banned.
Australian Professional Rodeo Association rodeo administrator Steve Hilton said the claims made by Animals Australia about rodeos were "ridiculous".
"We've been keeping statistics for years and there are more injuries on farms than at rodeos," he said.
"The stock we use are accustomed to rodeo life and anyone who's dealt with livestock knows if they're not cared for they don't perform their best."
Mr Hilton said millions of dollars from rodeos went towards charities each year.
"If it is a cruel event, no matter how much it raises, it would not be good," he said.
"The stockmen who own these animals have close ties and a relationship with them."
South Burnett rodeo instructor Tim Kelly said strict guidelines were in place so cruelty was not a concern.
"It's an age-old thing with people wanting to ban rodeos," he said.
"The horses they use in rodeos are not scared. They are quiet and easy to handle and so they're better looked after than other horses.
"If they're not fed and used in rodeos then those horses would be sent off to be used as dog food."
Mr Kelly said many horses lived for 20 years or more and were still fit and healthy enough to be used in rodeos.
"The horses that are bred for rodeos have their lives preserved," he said.
"When those horses do reach that age it's a testimony to how well they're looked after.
"After they retire, they live out their lives on contractors' properties."