A recent poll of Canadians about a range of animal issues is cause for optimism in the animal protection movement.
The poll, by respected polling company Research Co., found that majorities of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeos (59%); hunting animals for sport (85%); keeping animals in zoos or aquariums (52%) and killing animals for their fur (75%).
These results are encouraging but they may contain even more positive news when the survey sample is broken down by age and gender.
On a number of these issues, higher percentages of women and younger people oppose the exploitation of animals (which is consistent with other polling on animal issues). For example, while 59% of all Canadians oppose using animals in rodeos, 67% of women and 64% of people aged 18-34 take that position. Similarly, while 52% of Canadians oppose keeping animals in zoos and aquariums, 56% of women and 56% of the 18-34 age group are opposed.
Even on the animal-related issue of eating meat, where a significant minority of Canadians (19%) oppose eating animals, the poll found opposition higher among women (22%) and those aged 18-34 (25%).
All this may bode well for animals in the future, as the younger generation moves up the demographic ladder and replaces the older generation.
The same may be true of the support for animal welfare from women, but this could depend on whether women continue to gain more social power and status in fields such as politics and media. Progress in these areas has been slow.
In October 2019, Canada elected 98 women to the federal House of Commons. Women now represent 29% of the 338 elected Members of Parliament, up from 27% in the last parliament. However, a recent report found that, based on the rate of change over the last five federal elections, it will take 87 years before gender parity is reached in our national elected chamber. There are currently no female provincial premiers. Another study found that women accounted for just 29% of all people quoted in major Canadian media, compared to 71% for men.
If women and younger people gain stronger voices in Canada’s public discourse, it’s possible that animal welfare issues will garner more attention, and the opposition to the abuse and exploitation of animals will grow. If so, the future for animals might be brighter than we think.
UPDATE: Since we first published this post, we’ve received anotherletter of support, this time from the Ottawa Humane Society, backing our call for the CFL to cancel the Grey Cup rodeo.
The Montreal SPCA has joined Vancouver Humane in calling on the Canadian Football League (CFL) to scrap plans to hold a rodeo at this year’s Grey Cup.
In a letter to CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, Montreal SPCA executive director Élise Desaulniers said, “Canadians want family-friendly, cruelty-free entertainment to be part of national celebrations, not out-dated spectacles of animal cruelty.”
Vancouver Humane is grateful for this support from one of the leading animal protection agencies in Canada and will be engaging with other animal groups to build wider opposition to the rodeo, which is to be held on November 23, as part of the Grey Cup Festival in Calgary.
Vancouver Humane has launched an e-campaign that allows concerned members of the public to send a message to the CFL and organizers of the Grey Cup Festival, urging them to cancel the rodeo. If you haven’t already participated in the campaign, you can do so here.
Vancouver Humane recently had an opinion editorial published on the Daily Hive, which explained why holding a rodeo at the Grey Cup is not only wrong because of the suffering caused to animals, but also because it is a marketing blunder to associate the CFL with inhumane rodeo events.
Your donations help our campaigns against rodeo cruelty.
In case you missed it, here’s our recap of this year’s Stampede:
Six chuckwagon horses died during this year’s 10-day Calgary Stampede, with five dying or being euthanized as a result of injury, and one horse being euthanized for an “unrelated medical issue.”
This brings the total number of non-human casualties to 102 since 1986 (PDF), with almost 70 of those animals being chuckwagon horses. (Two humans have died either during chuckwagon races or as a result of injuries sustained during a race.)
Leading up to and during the Stampede we called on compassionate Canadians to contact the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association to voice their concerns surrounding the use of animals in rodeo, with over 6000 individuals joining our campaign.
Now, as the dust settles, and Stampede officials begin reviewing chuckwagon racing, you have an opportunity to be heard. We are urging everyone to contact both the Stampede and the CVMA through our website to let them know that these races are not safe and must be drastically changed through consultation with impartial experts or banned altogether.
Want to do more? You can donate online to our rodeo campaign and receive an immediate tax receipt thanks to Canada Helps. Not only that, but a generous donor is MATCHING all donations up to $10,000, so your donation will be doubled for a limited time!
First time a Stampede official has acknowledged campaign’s impact
The Calgary Stampede’s chief veterinarian has admitted that pressure from the Vancouver Humane Society affects how seriously the Stampede takes animal welfare.
The admission, buried in a news story in the Calgary Herald, was part of an interview with Greg Evans, a veterinarian employed by the Stampede.
The story states: “Evans said pressure from the Vancouver Humane Society, which openly calls for an end to all animal competition and entertainment at the Stampede, plays a role in how seriously both the Calgary Humane Society and the Stampede take animal welfare.”
This is the first time a Stampede official has acknowledged that Vancouver Humane’s anti-rodeo campaigns have had an impact on the Stampede’s sensitivity to animal welfare concerns.
Under this pressure, the Stampede made a number of rule changes in 2011 and 2016 to the rodeo and chuckwagon races. However, the changes do not affect the fundamental cruelty involved in the rodeo and horses have continued to die in the chuckwagon races. The Stampede needs to eliminate cruel rodeo events such as calf-roping and steer-wrestling and they should suspend the chuckwagon race until independent equine experts can determine whether it can be made safe for horses.
While the Stampede’s rule changes do not go far enough, the admission that it feels under pressure concerning animal welfare shows the importance of public opinion. We hope compassionate Canadians will continue to support our campaign against animal cruelty at the Stampede. We aim to draw attention to this issue at this year’s Stampede (July 5-14).
Let’s continue to hold the Stampede to account. Your support makes a difference and your donations will help us keep up the fight to end rodeo animal suffering.
Grant will help campaigns to fight rodeo cruelty and factory farming
A generous anonymous donor is offering to match donations to support our fight against rodeo cruelty and to help our Go Veg campaign. The matching grants mean your donation will be doubled, up to $10,000 for each program!
Our campaign against cruelty at the Chilliwack Fair rodeo, the Calgary Stampede and other rodeos will continue this year and your contributions, aided by the matching grant, will allow us to draw greater attention to the plight of rodeo animals.
Last year, Vancouver Humane exposed the use of electric shock devices at the Chilliwack Fair rodeo, which received considerable media coverage. We’ll put the spotlight on the rodeo again this year and keep up the pressure on sponsors.
Your doubled donation will also help our Go Veg campaign, allowing us to educate the public about the suffering of farmed animals, promote a plant-based diet and reduce the overall consumption of animal-based foods. We’re also supporting a growing number of institutions, from food service providers, schools and hospitals to corporate cafeterias, in reducing their offering of animal products on menus in favour of more plant-based foods.
Your gift will allow us to expand this important campaign and go even further to help farmed animals. The funds raised will help us run more Go Veg bus ads, attend more public events and distribute more Go Veg leaflets. We will be able to offer additional culinary support for institutions looking to transition more of their menus to plant-based and we will advocate for policies that prioritize plant-based foods, as well as stronger regulations to protect animal welfare.
Together we can create a kinder and more humane society for all animals!
To donate just click here. From the drop-down menu choose the Rodeo or Go Veg funds to ensure your donation is doubled.
At Vancouver Humane we think every animal deserves to be happy. In 2018, with your support, we helped sick and injured animals to get better; spoke out against animal cruelty and urged people to see animals as friends, not food.
Generous donors ensured our McVitie fund helped 130 animals get emergency medical help or be spayed/neutered. Their families, many on low incomes, appreciated that someone was there to help in a crisis and that their companions would come home safe and healthy.We hope to help even more animals in the new year – with more happy endings!
Helped spread the Go Veg message by distributing over 19,000 of our Live Well booklets to local advocates, at events and through our Outreach Team.
Launched a new speakers series called Animals & Ethics in the 21st Century to engage the community in animal issues (Our first speaker of 2019 will be registered dietitian Desiree Nielson on Jan. 10th.)
Called on candidates to declare their positions on animal welfare issues in a local election survey.
Advocated for stronger farmed animal transport regulations.
Called for action on delayed farm animal cruelty charges
With your help, we’ll do even more to help animals in 2019. Please donate to ensure this work continues. Your support means more animals will be helped, giving them the chance to live the happy lives they deserve.
Thank you and Happy New Year
from all of us at the Vancouver Humane Society!
Tormenting animals for entertainment is unacceptable
Earlier this year, we were dismayed to see two events staged in Abbotsford that saw bulls tormented and taunted for the sake of entertainment.
One was an “extreme rodeo” event held at Abbotsford’s Exhibition Park, some of which can be seen in this video. It’s clear that the bulls want no part of this sad spectacle. VHS complained to Abbotsford City Council, which owns the venue, but received no response.
The other was a Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event at the Abbotsford Centre, a venue also owned by the City of Abbotsford. Again, bulls were exploited for human amusement, obviously distressed as they bucked wildly to get unwanted riders off their backs. In addition, they were exposed to loud fireworks despite the fact that sudden noise is known to cause distress in cattle.
Bull-riding has become popular in recent years, as fans see it as a sensational contest between “man and beast.” Few people feel empathy for the bulls, as they weigh us much as 2000 pounds and are seen as ferocious and powerful. PBR and rodeo promoters say the bulls are star “athletes” and are born to buck, even though they have no choice but to participate.
Why do bulls buck?
The truth is that the bulls are selectively bred for a predisposition to buck, which means they are especially sensitive to any negative stimulus, such as the riders they are trying to buck off. This is thought to be an evolutionary response to a predator jumping on the bull’s back. In other words, the bull feels it is under attack and is fighting for its life. The wild bucking seen at these events does not occur outside the arena.
In addition to being mounted by the unwanted rider, a “flank strap” is cinched tight around the bull’s torso just before it is released into the arena. This causes the bull discomfort, creating yet further negative stimulus to induce the bull to buck harder. One study on bucking bulls puts it very clearly: “The purpose of the flank rope is to produce an annoyance to the bull.”
While the rodeo and bull-riding industries deny bulls are suffering, it is clear to any objective observer that the bulls’ wild bucking is an unnatural, negative experience. One indicator of the bulls’ distress is the presence “eye white” (an increase in the size of the white of the eye surrounding the pupil), which can be seen in photos of bull-riding events. Eye white has been identified as sign of fear and distress in cattle. One 2017 study states: “The work to date suggests that eye white percentage is a meaningful indicator of emotion, with more eye whites indicating fear and frustration and less eye white associated with positive feelings.”
Although it is difficult to see what happens behind the scenes in the chutes before a bull is released, there have been instances at rodeos where bulls have been kicked, had their tails twisted or have been electrically shocked – all to ensure bulls leave the chutes angry, fearful and bucking wildly. VHS exposed the use of an electric shock device at the Chilliwack rodeo’s bull-riding event in 2018.
While bulls can exhibit aggressive behaviour, they are not the inherently “mean” or “ornery” animals described by PBR promoters. Their levels of aggressive behaviour are determined by a mix of breeding and environment. For example, if they are isolated from the herd and put in an unfamiliar setting they are likely to be more aggressive. Otherwise, aggressive behaviour is manifested when bulls are provoked – such as being mounted by an unwanted rider or stressed by a flank strap.
Bucking bulls are also “trained” through the use of dummies, which are metal weights placed on their backs and released when they buck their hardest, thus conditioning the bull to buck harder to gain relief from the distress caused by the weight.
Physical harm to bulls
There is evidence that bucking bulls may suffer physical damage from the events they are forced to participate in. A 2017 study states that: “Results indicated bucking bulls were more likely than nonbucking bulls to develop horn and sinus disorders and musculoskeletal disorders of the vertebral region and pelvic limbs.”
While there are no independent statistics on bull injuries, there are certainly instances of bucking bulls suffering catastrophic injuries, such as in this video.
Injuries to humans
Although not an animal welfare issue, it is well known that bull-riding causes numerous injuries to human participants. A 2007 research paper comparing injury rates in various sports found that bull-riding had an injury rate 10 times greater than American football. The report concluded: “As a result of these analyses, it is a simple matter to conclude that there is a universal difference in the injury rates between bull riding and most other sports; and these authors, therefore, are compelled to declare the sport of bull riding to be the most dangerous organised sport in the world.” An earlier study suggests about 10 per cent of bull-riding injuries are concussions.
The PBR glorifies the danger of bull-riding, even producing a videos of the worst “wrecks” at its events. Many boys and young men are drawn to the macho culture, money and adrenalin rush of bull-riding, despite the high risk of long-term physical harm, including potential brain damage.
Despite being inhumane to bulls, as well as unduly dangerous to humans, bull-riding has grown in popularity. VHS is urging the public to complain to the venues that host PBR and rodeo bull-riding events. Here are some actions you can take:
Contact Abbotsford City Council to urge them to stop rodeo events at city-owned venues by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to:
Mayor and Council
City of Abbotsford
32315 South Fraser Way
Contact the Abbotsford Centre to urge them to stop hosting PBR events by emailing the centre’s general manager, Andrew Nash, at email@example.com or writing to:
33800 King Road
You can support our campaigns against rodeo and bull-riding events by donating here.
Company has not addressed the issue in its response to concerned citizens
Thank you to everyone who emailed Rogers Foods to ask them to urge the Chilliwack Fair to drop cruel rodeo events. More than 2000 of you did so!
Rogers Foods has not responded to VHS directly but sent this response to members of the public who contacted them:
Rogers Foods is a community minded organization that is proud to support local events.
We have long been a sponsor of the Rogers Foods Kitchen at the Chilliwack Fair. There are a number of baking contests associated with the Rogers Foods Kitchen.
During that time we’ve had hundreds of our customers enjoy entering their baked goods in these contests.
We believe that many customers look forward to this annually.
Many of our customers come from rural communities that participate in other activities at the fair.
Rogers Foods likes to keep in mind that our product has agricultural roots.
Unfortunately, Rogers Foods has been identified by Vancouver Humane Society supporters as being associated with other activities at the Chilliwack Fair. Our preference is those individuals take their concerns up directly with the organization that manages those activities.
Rogers Foods continues to appreciate the people that derive enjoyment of participating in the baking activities of the Chilliwack Fair and look forward to their continued participation.
Unfortunately, this response does not address the request that we, and all of you who emailed Rogers Foods, made to the company, which was: “Please ask the Fair to eliminate the calf-roping, steer-wrestling and team-roping events, all of which subject animals to fear, stress and pain for the sake of entertainment.”
We’re disappointed that Rogers Foods hasn’t called on the Chilliwack Fair to discontinue inhumane rodeo events (or at least is not willing to reveal if it has done so). If you’ve received the email reply above from Rogers Foods, we suggest you politely reply with these key points:
As a key sponsor of the Fair, Rogers Foods has a voice that the Fair will listen to. Rogers Foods needs to have a conversation with the Fair about the inclusion of cruel rodeo events in its program. It should urge an end to calf-roping, steer-wrestling and team-roping.
If Rogers Foods took a stand against rodeo cruelty at the Fair, it would be widely welcomed by compassionate British Columbians.
Rogers states they are a community-minded organization. As such, they should be taking into consideration the feedback from 2000+ members of the public that have raised this as an issue that’s important to them.
VHS will be working hard in 2018 to draw public attention to rodeo cruelty at the Fair and will be seeking the elimination of calf-roping, steer-wrestling and team-roping. As the photos on this page show, these events clearly cause animal suffering and distress.
We plan to engage with sponsors of the Fair and the wider Chilliwack business community, urging them to press the Fair for an end to rodeo cruelty. We will be encouraging the public to engage with sponsors and express their concerns about the Fair’s continued support for rodeo.
We’ll also continue to draw attention to animal welfare other rodeos, especially the Calgary Stampede’s rodeo and chuckwagon races.
We hope animal lovers here and across Canada will support our work against the abuse of rodeo animals. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on our campaigns and on actions you can take to help. You can also sign up for VHS alerts and updates.
In the meantime, donations to our fight against rodeo cruelty will help make our campaigns more effective.
Our past campaigns helped put an end to rodeos in Victoria and Abbotsford, eliminated several cruel events at Surrey’s Cloverdale Rodeo and convinced the City of Vancouver to ban rodeos.
With your help, we’ll gain more victories against this cruel spectacle of animal abuse.
In response to VHS’s campaign and the release of photos raising concerns about steer-wrestling and calf-roping at the Chilliwack Fair rodeo, the Fair has agreed to review the two rodeo events, including potentially cancelling them for the 2018 rodeo.
VHS has issued the following news release in response to the Fair’s announcement:
July 31, 2017
Vancouver Humane Society welcomes Chilliwack Fair decision to review rodeo events
Review to determine whether calf-roping and steer-wrestling should be canceled
Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has welcomed a statement issued today by the Chilliwack Fair that it will review the calf-roping and steer-wrestling events at its annual rodeo “to determine whether such events are suitable to continue in the 2018 Chilliwack Fair.”
“We are pleased that the Chilliwack Fair has listened to our concerns and the concerns of many people who object to these inhumane events,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker. “We urge the Fair’s board to cancel these events when it votes on this matter in September. “It would be a major step forward in the evolution of rodeo toward a more acceptable form of entertainment.”
Fricker said VHS remains opposed to rodeo in principle but welcomes the Chilliwack Fair’s willingness to at least address concerns over these highly controversial events.