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.





News/Blog Promoted rodeo

The ad they didn’t want you to see

VHS Abbotsford News Ad - June 2015-page-0

Last Friday, the Vancouver Sun ran a story about the refusal of the Abbotsford News to run our anti-rodeo ad, pictured above. The ad shows a photo of the steer-wrestling event at the 2008 Abbotsford Agrifair rodeo.

As the Sun’s story notes, VHS’s lawyers checked the ad.  There is no legal or ethical reason not to run it.  The ad is just expressing an opinion on a matter of public concern, something that is considered central to our democracy and to freedom of speech.

We are disappointed that the Abbotsford News would not let its readers see our point of view.  Newspapers are supposed to be champions of free speech and forums for debate and different opinions.  We understand that the Abbotsford News is a “rodeo partner” – as indicated on the Agrifair website – but that shouldn’t mean that advertising is refused just because it expresses a different viewpoint.

We know that many Canadians, including Abbotsford residents, are concerned about inhumane rodeo events.  If you are one of them, please sign our e-campaign to ask the Abbotsford Agrifair and its sponsors to stop supporting rodeo cruelty. It’s one way compassionate people can be heard, even if some newspapers would prefer they were kept silent.



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Is the tide turning against rodeo in Canada?

the chucks

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur



There are encouraging signs that attitudes toward rodeo and chuckwagon races in Canada may be changing, if independent opinion in mainstream media is anything to go by.

A recent editorial in the Vancouver Sun said that it was “hard to argue” with the description of the Calgary Stampede as “a spectacle of animal abuse.”

In the same week, a column in the Ottawa Citizen described the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race as a “brutal mix of human domination over an animal running at breakneck speed in confined quarters” and asked: “Would we miss it if it disappeared?”

Calf roper at 2006 Russian River Rodeo, Duncans Mills, California

Another column in the Calgary Herald, authored by a member of the Herald’s editorial board stated: “…the bottom line is these animals are still being used for sheer entertainment in events that can cause them traumatic injuries and death — and it is unnecessary for them to be subjected to this. Are we humans so hard up for entertainment that we must amuse ourselves by watching events that can cause animals to suffer and die?”

Elsewhere on the prairies, an editorial in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald criticized the Calgary Stampede, stating: “Shutting down the rodeo portion of the Stampede deserves serious consideration.”

Meanwhile, the BBC drew international attention to the deaths of chuckwagon horses at the Stampede with a lengthy analysis titled “Why horses die on the half-mile of hell”.

Update: Yet another opinion piece (in Metro News Canada) critical of the chuckwagon race has been published.

Update: An article in the Ottawa Citizen describes watching the CBC coverage of the Calgary Stampede, stating:”…it was impossible not to feel empathy for the poor animals, so clearly unwilling participants in this painful and terrifying circus. In the name of tradition, the CBC broadcast an ugly and cruel spectacle, one that felt like it took place in a dark, shameful past that the public no longer wanted to acknowledge, or had an appetite for.”

Aside from media comment, it should be remembered that virtually all mainstream animal welfare agencies oppose rodeo.

A 2013 public opinion poll showed that the majority of B.C. residents are opposed to rodeo.  Maybe that sentiment is beginning to spread across the country. Let’s hope so.

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Is CBC being honest about calf-roping?

B&W Stampede calf roping
Calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede. Is this what CBC Sports is afraid viewers might see?         Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

Anyone who watches CBC Sports coverage of calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede will notice that the moment the rope is tightening around the calf’s neck the camera will pan back to the rider and horse.  It has long been suspected that this is to avoid showing the calf being brutally jerked to a sudden halt, which might upset viewers.

This issue came up in a VHS interview with CBC Radio’s As it Happens program, which asked the head of CBC Sports if it was true that the camera deliberately panned away from the calf the moment it hit the end of the rope.  His answer was that CBC Sports: “will follow an event from start to finish and make quick in-the-moment decisions as necessary, as we do with all live sports coverage.”

Watch this CBC coverage of calf-roping (which in public relations double-speak they call tie-down roping) and you will note that the camera pans away every time.  Another example here.

If what happens to rodeo calves has to be hidden from the wider public, doesn’t that show how wrong and unacceptable their treatment is?

Please sign our petition against CBC Sports coverage of rodeo cruelty at the Calgary Stampede.

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VHS member responds to Calgary Stampede

How one VHS member responded to the Calgary Stampede’s empty claims of animal welfare

Many VHS supporters took part in our e-campaign calling on the Calgary Stampede to end calf-roping.  Those who emailed the Stampede received this response, which did not satisfy many supporters.  One wrote back to the Stampede with the following answer to the Stampede’s explanations:

Thank you so much for your response. I do appreciate you taking the time to send out your comments.

However, if you want to work with facts you might want to update your information to show that MOST ranchers nowadays use other methods than roping calves for veterinary purposes. As you work closely with these ranchers and cowboys you will know, or should know, that most use corals and cattle squeezes. There is actually not as much roping going on as in the past. Most people have evolved and have thought of easier ways to do things. Of course, I say “most” because some are slow to change … or slow learners. It is also easier for the rancher to use these squeezes as they can attend to more cattle and calves in an assembly line rather than roping and catching each individual one. In fact, using a lasso is a bit of a dying art. But the people who have these roping skills could certainly come up with other ways of presenting their craft without using any animals, and I am sure an audience would enjoy that. But I do realize this means having to be creative instead of relying on old habits. Yes, change is hard sometimes.

And before you say I know nothing about ranching, you are right, I don’t know EVERYTHING about ranching, as I certainly have never run one because I’m a vegetarian, but I CAN speak about what I do know for a fact and what I have witnessed. Three years ago I moved from the Cariboo, which is very much a ranching area, where I did visit ranches. I can tell you with most certainty that every ranch that I had the pleasure of visiting, and sometimes sharing meals with some wonderful people who have run cattle for years, they will tell you that nobody has roped and slammed a calf to the ground since they’ve owned the ranch, despite some of them inheriting it from family. Now I am not saying NOBODY does it, but very few large ranches do it that way anymore. So, ah, I know this is embarrassing for you, and I truly do hate to point fingers, but this again proves how much you are behind the times. But that’s okay, we can move forward now that you have this information. I say that respectfully because maybe you just don’t know all the different ways things have changed.

Also — and I don’t have the actual figures in front of me but I’m sure with some work I can get them — if you’re talking about science, then knowing anything about speed, velocity and torque, which is studied a lot in the car/truck industry for safety standards for vehicles, you will know that anything traveling at a high rate of speed (a calf or steer running) and then suddenly being pulled back by their necks or even a rope around their bodies with force, enough force to knock them off their feet, DOES indeed cause pain. This is why there are seat belt laws. If you have a veterinarian who tells you differently, then he/she is either a lousy veterinarian or is being paid to say this for you. I would love it if you could give me his/her name so I can contact them directly. I think this is very serious that there are veterinarians out there who would openly say this doesn’t cause them any harm. I would like to follow up on this and would be happy to do a demonstration for them if them like.

In addition, cinching up on sensitive areas on bulls and horses to make them buck does cause pain, which is evident by them bucking. As I stare out at my two horses right now as I’m writing this, who are peacefully standing in the shade under a tree, I don’t see them bucking around the yard. So that certainly isn’t something natural that they do. So this bucking is something that is visible to everyone and anyone involved in this so called “sport” will tell you, “Yes, we inflict this pain to make them buck and then we release the strap,” as if relieving them of the pain that you wilfuly inflicted makes everything okay. So again, if a veterinarian is telling you differently, then truly I want to speak to these veterinarians as I believe that goes against the Veterinarian Association’s Code of Conduct about willingly inflicting pain and suffering on an animal. This is intentional harm to an animal and I am hopeful that with how hard some people are working to change the laws in Canada that every time this is done these people can be charged with animal cruelty. People are also working hard on getting these laws amended to be written in more “layman’s terms” so there won’t be any misinterpretation.

Now, I don’t want to end this without giving you some great suggestions moving forward. How about instead of spending so much time justifying cruelty to animals for money, how about you try to evolve and think of new ways to have a festival. You can still have your parades with horses in them. You can keep all the wonderful food, drinks and rides. You could have some beautiful animals that are well taken care of that kids can see and pets that are kept in shady areas and offered plenty of food and water. You can have fun events like having a bunch of these so-called “cowboys” pulling around wagons with guys or girls on them. You could have people running and then another person roping them and pulling them to the ground. Hmm, somehow I think there could be human rights issues there. But honestly, if it’s okay to treat animals that way without being charged then why not do it to people? More seriously, though, how about having some bulls running around and the object is, with sticky tape, a person runs up to the bull and tries to pin as many of their team’s ribbons to the bull’s body. That was a suggestion made by a friend of mine and I think it’s brilliant! Now there’s one with an element of danger for the guy that needsto prove something, yet no harm comes to the bull.

So I will end by saying your Stampede is outdated and this is why we’re trying to change things. The world is evolving. That’s what the human species does … or should do anyway. There is a huge drop in circuses with animals and rodeos WILL be next. While I am sure there are still people out there that think sweat shops or slavery is still okay as long as it is for someone’s entertainment and/or profit, there are more people that are working hard to change this. It took a while for the Civil Rights Movement, and in some areas, people are STILL struggling with this, but kindness and compassion are winning and will always win. I personally dedicate my life to ending cruelty to anything. So I can tell you that I am not going away and if all goes well you’re going to have me bothering you for years to come. But I would be more than happy to work with you rather than against you. Less stress for both of us.

If you would like any further humane suggestions for having fun please feel free to contact me as I can come up with a whole bunch more if you like. I’m always happy to help.

Oh, wait, one last thing, in case you didn’t know, nobody uses chuck wagons any more either.

Yours sincerely,
Jackie Thipthorpe

cruelty News/Blog rodeo

Help us fight rodeo cruelty at the Calgary Stampede

cruelty of calf-roping at Calgary Stampede
Photo – Joanne McArthur


If you think what’s happening in this photo is wrong then help us stop it. 

Support our campaign against rodeo cruelty at this year’s Calgary Stampede.




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VHS launches ad condemning calf-roping

VHS is publishing a thought-provoking ad in a Calgary newspaper condemning rodeo calf-roping.  The ad, appearing in Fast Forward Weekly on Thursday, July 5, highlights the young age of calves used in the event by juxtaposing a photo of a calf and a human baby, underlined by the words: “Just 3 months old – Would you abuse a baby to entertain a crowd?”

The ad can be seen here.

CTV coverage.

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Mayor Watts to Mayor Nenshi: Ban calf-roping


              This has to stop


The popular mayor of Surrey, B.C., Dianne Watts, has written a letter to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, urging him to advocate for a ban on calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede.

Mayor Watts supported the decision by Surrey’s Cloverdale Rodeo to drop calf-roping and several other rodeo events in 2007.   In her letter, she tells Mayor Nenshi that eliminating calf-roping at the Stampede “would improve animal welfare and serve as an example to the Rodeo world.”

Mayor Nenshi is a member of the Calgary Stampede’s board of directors.  VHS is asking the public to email him and ask that he speak out against calf-roping.


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100 years of cruelty is nothing to celebrate

In a few weeks time, on July 6, animals will once again be suffering at the hands of the Calgary Stampede.  And once again, we will be calling on all civilized, compassionate Canadians to oppose this spectacle of animal abuse.

Some people wonder why the Vancouver Humane Society, a small animal charity on the West Coast, picks on the Calgary Stampede, a so-called national icon and self-described “greatest outdoor show on earth.”

The simple answer is this:  The Stampede subjects animals to fear, pain and stress for the sake of entertainment and that’s immoral.

To be clear, VHS only objects to the Stampede rodeo.  We have no issue with the other activities that make up the bulk of the Stampede.  If people want to dress up as cowboys and party, that’s fine with us. We just want to stop animals from suffering.

The Stampede will say that rodeo animals don’t suffer.  Can they really believe that a three-month-old calf doesn’t feel fear when it is goaded out of a chute and chased into the arena? Can they really believe that the calf doesn’t feel pain when, at 27 miles per hour, it is roped to a jarring halt, then picked up and thrown to the ground?  Imagine this being done to your dog.

Some people who defend rodeo say, well, the pain is only inflicted for a short time, so what’s the big deal.  Okay, imagine that a reality television program featured kittens or puppies receiving a mild electric shock for just a few seconds.  No one would stand for it.  There would be a public outcry.  Why? Because the idea of subjecting animals to abuse for the sake of entertainment would be considered barbaric, unconscionable and unacceptable. Yet we accept it in rodeo, where crowds of people actually applaud as they watch animals experience pain.

Oh, but rodeo is different.  It’s about tradition and agricultural heritage and what happens on the ranch.  Really?  The truth is that real working cowboys never rode bulls, wrestled steers or raced chuckwagons.  And the calf-roping event is a cruel travesty of the range practice.  “That’s not the way it’s done on the ranch. On the ranch it’s done quietly and calmly, not like at the rodeo,” says renowned animal behaviourist, Temple Grandin.

Even if rodeo events were a genuine part of Canadian heritage, would that justify cruelty to animals?  In London, one of the last bear-baiting pits, situated a few paces from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, was closed down in 1642.  While the Globe has been rebuilt, nothing remains of the bear pit.  There are some parts of our heritage we should retain and be proud of and there are others we should consign to the dustbin of history.  That’s where traditions of animal cruelty belong.

The Stampede is marking its 100th anniversary.  A century of unnecessary animal suffering.  If you believe in a future without such suffering, please speak out against rodeo.  If you believe in a civilized compassionate Canada, please join our campaign.  We’re going to take a stand against animal cruelty at the Calgary Stampede.  Please stand with us.

Watch this space.

More info on the Calgary Stampede rodeo.







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Ask Mayor Nenshi to speak up for compassion

Compassionate Canadians must write to Calgary’s mayor.  Here’s why:

It’s time to end cruel calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede and there’s one man who could make it happen:  Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary.

Since his election in 2010, Mayor Nenshi has done much to enhance Calgary’s image as a progressive city with a heart.  But the city’s image remains tarnished by the cruelty inflicted on animals during the annual Calgary Stampede rodeo.  And calf-roping is perhaps the cruellest rodeo event of all.

Three-month old calves are goaded out of the chute at full speed (up to 27 miles per hour). The terrified animal is then chased by a mounted rider who ropes the calf to a sudden, bone-jarring halt, picks him up and slams him to the ground. The event is timed and the rider who does it fastest wins.

The time pressure of the event and the prize money at stake can lead to poor roping, harsh handling and mistakes by riders – all of which put the calf at risk of injury. But it is not just the risk of injury that is the problem with calf-roping. It’s the fear.

All cattle are “prey” animals and research has shown they are particularly sensitive to fear. Dr. Temple Grandin, the distinguished animal behaviourist, has written that fear is “so bad” for animals it can be worse than pain.

There can be no doubt that a three-month-old calf, goaded and chased into an arena with a shouting crowd is suffering even before the rope pulls him off his feet.  How can tormenting an animal in this way be acceptable as entertainment?  Treating a dog this way would result in cruelty charges.

Mayor Nenshi, as a member of the Stampede’s board of directors, could be a voice for compassion by urging the board to stop the unconscionable cruelty of calf-roping.  By taking this step, the Stampede could begin evolving into an acceptable form of entertainment – one that doesn’t rely on the abuse of animals.

Please tell Mayor Nenshi to speak up for the innocent calves who suffer for the sake of human amusement by emailing him this letter.

More information on the Calgary Stampede rodeo here.