Media Release

Proposed rodeo in Langley would be a step backward for animals

A bull riding event at the Cloverdale Rodeo, 2004.

VANCOUVER, April 27, 2022 – For the first time in well over a decade, a new rodeo is being planned in the Lower Mainland – a move that the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling a major step backward. The Valley West Stampede Society has requested approval to host the new event in Langley from September 3rd to 5th, according to the Pro Rodeo Canada website.  

“This rodeo would be a monumental step backward for animals and for the majority of British Columbians who believe they should be treated with compassion,” says Emily Pickett, Campaign Director for the VHS. “We believe that this event is not in the public interest of Langley residents.”  

Polling from earlier this month shows that 64% of B.C. residents are opposed to the use of animals in rodeos.  

The event’s committee contact is listed as 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 discriminatory conduct, including racism, sexism, and physical abuse. 

According to the VHS, many rodeo events subject animals to fear, discomfort, pain and stress for the sake of entertainment and put the animals at unnecessary risk of injury which may require euthanasia. For example, in bucking events, bulls and rodeo horses buck in response to discomfort from the rider’s use of spurs and to the tightened flank strap around their sensitive hindquarters. In roping events, such as calf roping, research shows that calves experience stress when being chased and roped.  

“The very nature of many of these rodeo events is counter to best handling practices for farmed animals, which state that animals should be handled quietly and calmly in order to minimize stress,” says Pickett. 

There has been a move away from particularly inhumane rodeo events in B.C. in recent years, with four events – calf roping, steer wrestling, wild cow milking and team roping – having been dropped from the Cloverdale Rodeo in 2007 following the death of a calf. 

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SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society  

For further information: Chantelle Archambault 604-416-2903

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The truth about rodeo

The rodeo industry and its supporters have put forward many arguments to defend rodeo. Keep reading to learn the truth about rodeo and how to counter some of the most common arguments.

1. Animals used in rodeo are at risk of stress and injury.

Defenders of rodeo will often argue that rodeo animals are valuable, so they would not be mistreated or put at risk. This is like saying that race car drivers would not put their valuable cars at risk in motor racing. The fact is that the financial rewards outweigh the risk.

Professional rodeo offers large cash prizes and generates significant revenue for those involved. Rodeos are marketed as “exciting” because they are risky and fast-paced, putting animals in danger of stress and injury. For instance, recent research into calf roping has confirmed that calves show visible signs of anxiety and fear while being chased and have elevated levels of stress hormones after roping events.

2. Rodeo animals have no choice.

Rodeo supporters will point out that other sports carry a risk of injury, such as boxing or racecar driving. The difference is that rodeo animals, unlike human athletes, have no choice in the matter.

Is it likely a calf or steer would choose to be roped and thrown to the ground? Would a bull choose to be goaded into an arena of thousands of screaming people with someone on his back and a belt tied around his hindquarters?

3. Rodeo events bear little resemblance to traditional ranch practices.

The rodeo industry markets itself as an important part of western heritage and tradition. In fact, most rodeo events bear little or no resemblance to real ranch practices, historic or modern.

For example, why would a real cowboy ride a bull? Why would a real cowboy want to make a horse buck with a flank strap?

A key issue is that rodeo events are timed, whereas real ranch practices are not. The National Farm Animal Care Council’s Code of Practice for Handling of Beef Cattle requires that animal handlers must use quiet handling techniques. Specifically, they recommend against animals falling during handling, and suggest using handling tools, such as flags, plastic paddles or rattles, to direct animal movement. Timing makes these events faster, more stressful and more dangerous to the animals. Real calf roping on ranches is a far more gentle practice in which calves are roped at slow speeds.

4. Chuckwagon races are “a cruel detour to the slaughterhouse”.

Some event supporters will argue against protecting animals from poor treatment in chuckwagon races because they are going to be slaughtered anyway. The fact that some animals will eventually be slaughtered for food is not a justification for abusing them before they die.

Chuckwagon races have been termed “a cruel detour to the slaughterhouse.” While we slaughter millions of animals every day for food, no one would suggest putting it on show, timing it and awarding a prize to the fastest slaughterhouse worker.

5. Events can replace rodeo with animal-friendly and family-friendly entertainment.

Although rodeo is still treated as family entertainment in many places, it is losing popularity as it continues to cause animal suffering.

Many rodeos are part of fairs or other cultural events. By dropping cruel rodeo events, these fairs can become more animal-friendly and family-friendly. They can also gain the support of the 59% of Canadians who oppose the use of animals in rodeo.

Take action

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Latest news

Vancouver Humane Society, Animal Justice warn of possible violations at Kelowna bull riding event Animal Justice and the Vancouver Humane Society are raising concerns about a bull riding event scheduled for Prospera Place in Kelowna on July 18. “The groups have alerted RCMP and the BC SPCA about potential violations of B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Canada’s Criminal Code during the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event.”…



End inhumane rodeo events at the Calgary Stampede


Though the chuckwagon races did not proceed in 2021 due to time-sensitive safety concerns, Stampede organizers have not committed to removing this dangerous event or the three concerning rodeo events highlighted by 5,354 animal supporters. Please stay tuned for future actions to address cruel events at the Calgary Stampede.

UPDATE – July 26, 2021

A horse was euthanized this weekend following a chuckwagon race in Red Deer, Alberta.

This comes after the Calgary Stampede cancelled their 2021 chuckwagon races due to safety concerns surrounding the lack of a practice season during COVID-19.

The chuckwagon races always pose a risk to horses because of the fast pace of the event and the proximity of wagons and horses on the track. There are also concerns about the use thoroughbred horses in chuckwagon racing, which tend to be bred for speed rather than skeletal strength. This puts them at greater risk of serious injury and euthanization.

The horse who was euthanized this weekend was diagnosed with a muscular-skeletal injury after the accident.

The loss was tragic and preventable.

Please call on the Calgary Stampede to extend their suspension of the chuckwagon races until an independent review by animal experts can determine if they can be made safer.

The majority of Canadians are opposed to rodeo; so why does a Canadian event marketing itself as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” continue to host rodeo events?

59% of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeo, and yet the Calgary Stampede continues to host cruel rodeo events year after year that cause animal suffering, stress, and even death. It is clear to most people that twisting a steer’s neck until he falls down or stretching him by the neck and hind legs so he is suspended above the ground is inhumane, but these activities are carried out for the sake of so-called entertainment in the form of steer wrestling and team roping every year.

Watch: The cruel reality of calf roping

The cruel reality of calf roping

This is calf roping, an event held at rodeos including the Calgary Stampede. Take action to end inhumane rodeo events and create an animal-friendly, family-friendly Stampede here:

Perhaps the most obviously cruel event is calf roping (also known as tie-down roping), where a calf who is just three months old—long before the age she should even be weaned from her mother—is tormented or “goaded” in a chute leading from a holding pen to the rodeo arena, so that she bursts out at a high speed as soon as the gate opens. Then, as she runs into a ring at around 27 miles per hour, the confused calf is roped around the neck by a rider and jerked to a sudden stop. The rider will then jump to the ground and quickly tie three of the calf’s legs together as she struggles to break free.

Animals used for calf roping, steer wrestling, and team roping can and have sustained injuries during these events that cost them their lives.

Photos of the events make it clear that these animals also experience pain and stress while being roped and roughly handled. Recent research into calf roping has confirmed that calves show visible signs of anxiety and fear while being chased and have elevated levels of stress hormones after roping events.

Another major event at the Calgary Stampede is the chuckwagon races, which has been dubbed the “half mile of hell” by organizers and participants. The races involve several teams of horses pulling wagons in a figure eight course and racing down a track at high speed to the finish line. This dangerous event has caused more than 70 horse deaths since 1986—mainly due to crash injuries and heart attacks brought on by stress. Though the event has been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, organizers have announced a plan to resume the event in 2022.

Watch: The Chuckwagon races, the Calgary Stampede’s deadliest event

The Chuckwagon races: The Calgary Stampede’s deadliest event

These are the Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races, which have caused over 70 horse deaths since 1986.

What has been done to stop these events?

Thanks to the hard work of Vancouver Humane Society’s supporters and other animal rights advocates, some progress has been made in past years in an attempt to reduce animal injuries at the Calgary Stampede. The number of wagons in the chuckwagon races was reduced from four to three following the deaths of six horses in 2019; it remains to be seen whether this measure alone will make the “half mile of hell” any safer for horses.

Up to this point, progress toward making the Stampede more animal-friendly and family-friendly has been slow and hard-won. A serious change by the Calgary Stampede is long overdue to make this fair one that truly represents the values of Canadians.

What’s next?

The Vancouver Humane Society is calling on Calgary Stampede Interim CEO Dana Peers to remove three of the fair’s most inhumane rodeo events: calf roping, steer wrestling, and team roping. The cancellation of the 2021 chuckwagon races also offers an opportunity to employ an independent review by experts (i.e. veterinarians, animal behaviourists, equine specialists) to determine whether or not this event can be made safer in future years. If the Calgary Stampede wishes to be the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, it must stop causing animal suffering and leave these events where they belong: in the past.

Take action to end inhumane rodeo events!

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animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Too soon to say that Stampede chuckwagon race is safer


Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

VHS and animal advocates across Canada are relieved and pleased that no animal deaths were reported at this year’s Calgary Stampede.

The Stampede says that safety measures it implemented for its chuckwagon race have had an impact.  We hope that is the case, but in fact it’s too soon to say.

There have been three years since 1986 in which there were no animal deaths at the Stampede (1993, 1998, 2003) yet animals continued to die in the intervening years.  Only when a sustained pattern is established, with consecutive years free of animal deaths, will it be clear that the safety improvements have worked.  (It should also be noted that there was a near-disaster in this year’s race when a chuckwagon flipped over, tossing the driver to the ground.)

Agrifair RodeoIt’s also important to note that the safety measures the Stampede has introduced this year, and in previous years, have only come about because of the attention that VHS has drawn to the chuckwagon race and rodeo events.

The resulting media and public pressure have forced the Stampede to take action, although they are unlikely to admit that is the case.

VHS’s supporters and animal advocates who have spoken out across the country should be proud that they have helped hold the Calgary Stampede’s management accountable for the safety of the animals it uses.

But no one should forget that, despite the fact no animals died this year, many animals continue to suffer in the rodeo events.  VHS’s focus is, and always has been, on cruel events such as calf-roping and steer-wrestling – which we have asked the Stampede to ban.

calf roping040522Rodeo082cropresizeRodeo animals are subjected to fear, pain and stress for the sake of entertainment.  That is unethical and unacceptable. Three-month-old calves continue to be chased, roped, tied up and thrown to the ground.  Steers continue to have their necks twisted until they fall to the ground.  Bulls and horses continue to have bucking straps tightened around their hindquarters to make them buck.  All this to amuse a crowd.

Until animal suffering is eliminated from the Stampede and other rodeos, VHS will continue to oppose these events.  We will continue to draw public attention to the plight of rodeo animals and we will always speak out on their behalf.

It is only public pressure that will force rodeos to take animal welfare seriously. Our supporters have been instrumental in creating that pressure and we thank all of you for standing up for rodeo animals.  You are making a difference.