Tree of Compassion visited a free rodeo event held at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show to see for ourselves how the animals are treated. It was clear that the various activities put animals under great stress and often painful techniques are used to create the rodeo drama. The photos below are one example.
Bare Back Riding & Bull Riding
Both these events require a person to remain seated on a horse or bull for eight seconds using only one strap to hang on to (no saddle). In order for the animals to buck there needs to be a trigger to provoke them to rid themselves of a rider. The main technique used in rodeo is the flank strap and we witnessed this being used each time.
The flank strap is placed around the abdomen of an animal, near its rear legs. For horses the strap passes across sensitive skin of the abdomen. For bulls it can go across the urethra. When the animal is in the stall with the rider mounted, the strap is worked in such a way that it is tightened as the gate is opened triggering pain and a bucking response. The animal works feverishly to remove the painful strap. Even when the rider falls or is taken off by assisting riders, the horses still buck and gallop in pain until the strap is loosened.
Without the strap it is unlikely many animals would buck so consistently and frantically and therefore the element of ‘entertainment’ would be limited.
The bulls often turn on the rider to defend themselves and the rodeo clowns try to distract them until the animal calms or is lead or forced out of the arena. One bull we witnessed could not find the safety of the exit gate for some minutes and was clearly very distressed.
Rodeos have been targeted by people concerned about animal welfare for as long as the events have existed. The list of offending activities are long, and we won’t detail them here. Certainly on our visit we witnessed the use of cattle prods, spurs, extreme joint-stress placed on animals due to ‘steer wrestling’ (twisting a steer’s neck to force it to the ground, barrel racing (extreme turns at high speeds in this traditional horse race) and general distress of animals placed in an environment which is bewildering to them (amplified commentary and sounds, crowds, intense physical activities and forcible herding in chaotic and visually confronting surroundings).
What to Do?
Boycott rodeos and write to / ring local authorities to voice your opposition to the event. Research the facts about how animals are harmed and encourage the industry to seek other ways to entertain people that don’t involve animals or animal-harming activities.
If you do find yourself at an event (like we did) make sure you voice your concerns so those near you can hear a dissenting view. Take photos and video and report any harmful actions.