SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

The cruelty of rodeos

Rodeos are events in which animals are subjected to violence and cruelty in the name of ‘sport’.

At the moment, rodeos are legal in New Zealand, but the SPCA is calling for a ban on rodeos because they subject animals to a terrifying and cruel experience, resulting in suffering, injury, and sometimes even death. No animal should have to suffer, especially not for human entertainment.

Animals in New Zealand should be protected from cruelty, yet rodeo animals are subjected to pain, fear, and distress in the name of entertainment. However, there is growing opposition across the country to rodeo events using animals. Allowing animals to be used in rodeo events is akin to permitting and legalising animal cruelty. Animals are tormented, grabbed, chased, wrestled, and roped in the various rodeo events. The animals are stressed and frightened. Speed is a key to many rodeo events and this increases the risk of injury as the panicked animals try to escape and are pushed to their physical limits. They may sustain injuries such as torn ligaments, fractures, broken bones, bruising, and internal damage. In some cases, these injuries are so severe the animals die or are killed at the rodeo.

The animals used in rodeos are not wild animals. Normally docile bulls and horses are provoked into aggressive behaviour by painful or irritating means such as flank straps, electric prods, tail twisting, and painful spurs; increasing their anxiety and stress, and leading to aggravated animals who will “perform”.

Bulls, horses, cows, and calves are herd animals. It is terrifying for these animals to be singled out and pursued, as well as being subjected to the noise and confusion of the arena.

The animals who are forced to participate in rodeos have no choice. They cannot escape the intense fear and stress they are subjected to, and also suffer terrible injuries and sometimes painful deaths. Even though the animal may get to their feet and leave the arena apparently unharmed, they can still be suffering from internal injuries which are not visible but cause significant pain and distress. As prey species these animals will instinctively always avoid showing injury so that they do not appear weak to predators. Many of these animals are used over and over for rodeo events, subjected to more fear and more pain each time.

Rodeos are not traditional displays of skill and bravery – they originated from U.S. farming practices from 200 years ago and have nothing to do with New Zealand agricultural traditions. These brutal exhibitions are outdated and cruel. Rodeos are an imported entertainment that should not be tolerated in New Zealand. Rodeos desensitise viewers, especially children, to the suffering of animals and teach people that cruelty is acceptable. Because of their inherent cruelty, traditional rodeo events have been banned in parts of Europe, Australia and the US, and in the UK.

The SPCA is opposed to any event which inflicts pain, distress, fear or suffering on any animal. Sometimes SPCA officers must be present at rodeos to monitor the event but the inspectors can only enforce the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and currently rodeo is legal. However, our organisation believes that rodeo is unacceptable cruelty and should not be legal so we are advocating for a total ban on animal events in rodeos.

How you can help

  • Talk to your friends, family and colleagues about rodeos and explain why they need to be made illegal in New Zealand.
  • Don’t attend rodeos – rodeos will only continue as long as people attend them.
  • Get involved in peaceful protests and petitions calling for an end to rodeos.
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