Opinion Editorial

Proposed rodeo in Langley flies in the face of community values

Article originally published in The Daily Hive.

A new rodeo may be coming to the Lower Mainland — and that could spell bad news for animals and residents.

Organizers have requested approval from the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association to host the event in Langley this September. The group name, Valley West Stampede Society, may not ring any bells, but at least one familiar face hints at ties to BC rodeo’s problematic recent history.

The committee contact listed on the Pro Rodeo website is Rich Kitos – the former vice president of the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association and one of the key board members named in the human rights complaint filed against the Association in July of last year. The complaint alleges that board members including Kitos conspired to cover up racist, sexist, and physically abusive conduct.

To see a new rodeo proposed in connection with this name should be a cause for concern to the Langley community.

This new proposal is especially shocking given the widespread opposition to rodeo in BC. According to a poll from earlier this month, 64% of BC residents are opposed to the use of animals in rodeos.

Animal suffering is becoming increasingly difficult for British Columbians to stomach as awareness grows. More and more, the science of how animals think, feel, socialize, and perceive the world is bringing to light the suffering inherent in rodeo practices.

It’s a natural next step, then, to prevent as much unnecessary suffering as we can for these animals. We would not goad a puppy in a chute so that he bursts out at a high speed, only to be roped by the neck and tied at the legs; yet this is the treatment rodeo supporters would have us accept for 3-month-old calves in tie-down roping events. All the while, research and common sense tell us that calves experience stress and fear while being chased, roped and roughly handled.

One of the common arguments for rodeo events is that they educate the public about where their animal-based food comes from. The truth is, if these same practices were to occur on a farm, they would be against the law. The National Farm Animal Care Council requires quiet handling techniques to minimize stress. Roping an animal by the neck at over 40 kilometres per hour would be considered abusive under section 5.2 of the Veal Cattle Code of Practice because of the dragging that can occur.

There is further concern with animals being purpose-bred for rodeo, leading to distressing predispositions like bulls or horses who are more sensitive to negative stimuli. This causes the animals to buck when they are exposed to fear, pain, and stress, such as from the use of spurs and from a flank strap tied around their sensitive hindquarters in bucking events.

Combine this with the increased risk of injury that could put animals in line for euthanasia, and it is clear that rodeo is fundamentally at odds with how we should be treating animals.

The growing awareness around animal welfare is largely responsible for the recent shift away from rodeo events in BC. In 2007, the death of a calf prompted the Cloverdale Rodeo to drop four of its most concerning events: calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, and wild cow milking. In 2015, the Luxton Rodeo near Victoria was cancelled; the Abbotsford Rodeo followed suit in 2016. The following year, Chilliwack Rodeo implemented modest rule changes to its calf roping and steer wrestling events, including that a steer must be on his feet before being rolled to the ground.

To approve a new rodeo now which would not only introduce unnecessary suffering to animals, but also have ties to concerning allegations of discrimination in a recent human rights complaint, would fly in the face of our society’s values and the progress we have made. If our community is committed to justice and compassion, we cannot sit by and permit these major steps backward for animals and humans.