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Newspaper refuses to print ad opposing rodeo

This is the ad the Williams Lake Tribune refused to print.


So much for freedom of speech in Williams Lake


Earlier this year, a tiny community newspaper in Iowa won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on big agriculture companies over factory farm pollution.

The Storm Lake Times, which investigated the effects of nitrogen from farm drainage on drinking water in the state, was praised for its “editorials fuelled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.”

The family that owns the newspaper reportedly lost a few friends and a few advertisers, but never doubted they were doing the right thing.

“We’re here to challenge people’s assumptions and I think that’s what every good newspaper should do,” said one family member.

It’s a great example of a community newspaper showing courage and tenacity in seeking the truth. Some newspapers still uphold the highest standards and values of a free press.

Then there’s the Williams Lake Tribune. In May, VHS tried to book a full-page ad in the Tribune. The ad, as we informed the Tribune’s publisher via email, would express VHS’s opposition to the Williams Lake Stampede rodeo.

After a couple of days of silence from the publisher, we emailed again and received this reply from an executive at Black Press, the Tribune’s corporate owner:

“In consultation with our lawyer we have determined that we are entitled to decline advertising in the circumstances.

“The Williams Lake Tribune is a sponsor of the Stampede because it is a significant community event that the paper supports. We appreciate that your society opposes the event and we respect your right to that opinion. You were wise to check with us before commissioning artwork and design.

“While we cannot say definitively that we will decline all possible advertising, we can say, from experience, that anti-Stampede type display advertising that suggests or argues gratuitous cruelty to animals by image or text is unlikely to be accepted by the Williams Lake Tribune at this time.”

Since the words “unlikely to be accepted” seemed to leave the door slightly open, we sent the executive the planned content of the ad to see if it would be acceptable. This included a photograph of the steer-wrestling event taken at last year’s Williams Lake Stampede, accompanied by text stating: “You know in your heart this is not right. Stop cruel rodeo events at the Williams Lake Stampede.”

The executive replied that this would not be accepted.

This is not the first time a Black Press newspaper has refused one of VHS’s anti-rodeo ads.  In 2015, the Abbotsford News rejected a full-page ad opposing the Abbotsford Rodeo (which was ultimately cancelled in 2016).  No reason was given for the rejection.

It’s perfectly legal for a newspaper to refuse an ad for any number of reasons.  The ad might be libelous or gratuitously offensive or misleading to readers.  VHS’s ad did contain a graphic image of a steer being wrestled to ground, but it only showed what a rodeo-goer would typically see at the Stampede – the very activity that the Williams Lake Tribune says it promotes and supports.  If the Tribune finds a photo of steer-wrestling offensive and unacceptable, how can it support the event?

It’s also perfectly normal for a newspaper not to agree with an ad it might carry. The Tribune could have made this clear with a disclaimer on the VHS ad or it could have run an editorial explaining its contrary position on rodeo.

But the Tribune chose instead to simply suppress a legitimate point of view on a matter of public interest.  It didn’t trust its readers to make up their own minds about rodeo.  Unlike the Storm Lake Times, it didn’t challenge assumptions, “like every good newspaper should do.”

The B.C. Community Newspaper Association, of which the Williams Lake Tribune is a member, says part of its mission is to: “Improve standards in the practice of the profession of journalism, and to promote a high standard of conduct and professional ethics in the business of newspaper publishing.”

The Canadian Association of Journalists’ ethics guidelines state that “Defending the public’s interest includes promoting the free flow of information, exposing crime or wrongdoing, protecting public health and safety, and preventing the public from being misled.”

Clearly, ethics matter to journalists and to the public they serve.  People still believe that a free press is vital to democracy, that diversity of opinion matters, that newspapers should be courageous defenders of free speech.

What isn’t clear is whether those things matter to the Williams Lake Tribune, which, to our knowledge, has not been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.


TAKE ACTION: Help us fight rodeo cruelty at the Williams Lake Stampede




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Another rodeo, another spectacle of cruelty

080716 - Chilliwack, BC Chung Chow photo Chilliwack Rodeo Calf roping

This is what happened to animals at the Chilliwack rodeo

The past weekend, the annual Chilliwack Fair’s rodeo once again saw animals tormented for the sake of entertainment – graphically illustrated in the photos below. It’s the last full rodeo left in the Lower Mainland and we’d like to see it end.  If you agree, please let the Chilliwack Fair know by sending them a polite email at

VHS will be taking further actions in the coming weeks, including identifying sponsors.

Chilliwack Rodeo - Sunday


Chilliwack Rodeo


Chilliwack Rodeo


Chilliwack Rodeo - Sunday


Chilliwack Rodeo - Sunday


Chilliwack Rodeo - Sunday


Chilliwack Rodeo - Sunday


Chilliwack Rodeo - Sunday


Chilliwack Rodeo - Sunday


Chilliwack Rodeo - Sunday


animal welfare compassion cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Rodeo on the run?

Thats entertainment?

According to media reports, the “dysfunctional” Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) is in chaos, with its general manager being fired and several board directors resigning.

This follows the the CPRA’s failure to negotiate a deal to keep its championships, the Canadian Finals Rodeo, in Edmonton.  The CFR will now be held in Saskatoon, starting in 2017.  (You can urge the City of Saskatoon not to host the rodeo here.)

All this may signify a lack of public support for rodeo, which is good news for animal welfare.  VHS has exposed the suffering of rodeo animals with photos from a number of events, most recently at the Williams Lake Stampede.

The CFR’s move from Edmonton to Saskatoon means the rodeo will be in a venue with a seating capacity of 9,550 instead of one with a capacity of more than 18,000.  In short, the move likely means fewer people will see the rodeo and its growth will be limited.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association, which has been organizing rodeos since the 1990s, has announced that it has “ceased all operations, effective immediately”.  This follows the cancellation of two professional rodeos in British Columbia – one in Abbotsford, the other in Victoria – in the last two years, after campaigns by VHS and other animal advocates.

In addition, attendance at this year’s Calgary Stampede was the lowest in 22 years. While this was blamed on bad weather and Alberta’s economic downturn, it suggests that rodeo has a limited appeal.  There is certainly evidence that this is the case, with a December 2015 poll showing that 63 per cent of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeo.

As more people learn the truth about rodeo cruelty, the harder it will be for rodeo to attract new fans.  VHS intends to make sure that’s exactly what happens.

animal welfare compassion cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Tell City of Saskatoon not to host rodeo championships

Calf roping 05

It has been announced that the City of Saskatoon is to host the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) starting in 2017.  This follows the failure of the CFR to secure an agreement to continue holding the rodeo championship in Edmonton.

The move comes despite the fact that 63 per cent of Canadians and virtually all animal welfare organizations oppose rodeos.  More info here.

Please let the City of Saskatoon know that it is supporting animal cruelty by deciding to host this event.

You can email Saskatoon’s Mayor here.

You can phone the office of the mayor at 306-975-3202.

You can write a letter to the mayor:

Office of the Mayor
City of Saskatoon
222 Third Avenue North

Saskatoon, SK S7K 0J5

Thank you.

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.





animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

CBC used false information to defend Calgary Stampede

Calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur


The CBC has been using false information in its responses to concerns about animal welfare at the Calgary Stampede and the CBC’s coverage of the Stampede’s rodeo and chuckwagon races.

In emails to members of the public, the CBC falsely stated that the Alberta SPCA works with the Calgary Stampede and is on-site monitoring events.  The Alberta SPCA has denied that this is the case.

People who have emailed the CBC to complain about its Stampede rodeo broadcasts have been receiving an email response from CBC which states that:

“…Stampede organizers are committed to providing the highest standard of animal care and safeguarding animal welfare. To that end, the organization works with the Calgary Humane Society and the Alberta SPCA. Both groups are on-site monitoring events, and all competing animals are under constant veterinary care and attention throughout the Stampede.”

But when one complainant checked with the Alberta SPCA to see if this was true, she received a reply from the society’s communications manager stating:

“Thank you for contacting me about this email. I will be contacting the CBC to correct its public messages, because the Alberta SPCA doesn’t “work with” the Stampede, and we don’t send officers to monitor Stampede events…”

The complainant’s email from the CBC can be seen here and the email from the Alberta SPCA here.


Yesterday, the Alberta SPCA tweeted a statement confirming that it does not work with the Stampede or monitor rodeo events:

Capture albera spca

The CBC has tweeted an apology saying “it wasn’t our place to speak for the Alberta SPCA or Calgary Stampede.” But the tweet did not address why the CBC was distributing misinformation about the Alberta SPCA’s animal welfare role at the Stampede.

It is not known how many complainants received CBC emails containing the false information.

VHS has an online petition calling on the CBC to stop broadcasting rodeo cruelty at the Stampede.  Also see our related article in the Huffington Post.








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Animal suffering at BC’s Williams Lake Stampede



Calf-roping at the Williams Lake Stampede. This is family entertainment?





This past weekend, the 90th Williams Lake Stampede was held amid much local fanfare.  The event was described by the local newspaper as “four days of rodeo action and fun”. But it wasn’t much fun for the animals.

VHS sent a photographer to Williams Lake to record what really happens at the Stampede.  The pictures on this page show nothing but animals being abused for the sake of human amusement.

If you think this is wrong please email the Mayor of Williams Lake and politely ask him to ban cruel rodeo events in the city.  You can tell him 66 per cent of B.C. residents are opposed to rodeos, as are virtually all animal welfare agencies, including the BC SPCA.

For a list of key sponsors of the Williams Lake Stampede click here.

Photos taken at the Williams Lake Stampede, June 30 to July 3, 2016



Calf-roping – Calves just three-months old abused to entertain a crowd




























Steer-wrestling – Man literally bending an animal to his will














The “wild” horse race – tormenting terrified horses for sport















Junior steer-riding – teaching kids to abuse animals







Team-roping – roping steers by the neck and hind legs, often stretching them off their feet




Bull-riding – Is this animal enjoying the experience?






animal welfare compassion cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Why is animal lover Jann Arden promoting the Calgary Stampede?

Bucking horse at Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur
Bucking horse at Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

Let Jann Arden know that rodeo is cruel – see actions below.

Singer Jann Arden, long known as an animal lover, has been named as a joint-parade marshall for the Calgary Stampede parade, the event that kicks off the ten-day rodeo, fair and chuckwagon races.

The announcement is a surprise, given Arden’s previously stated opposition to the chuckwagon races, shown in this tweet from 2013:

J Arden tweet against chuckwagon race

Presumably, she is aware of the 65 horses that have died in the Stampede’s chuckwagon races since 1986? That includes 11 dead horses since the Stampede’s much-publicised new “safety measures” were implemented in 2011.

Arden’s decision is also surprising and disappointing given her support for animal causes, including opposition to the Alberta government’s cull of wild horses. Perhaps she isn’t aware that the Calgary Stampede also culls unwanted horses, as revealed by media in 2012.  As CTV News reported at the time, “For the first time, the Calgary Stampede is admitting that horses that don’t make the cut to compete in the famous rodeo are sent to an Alberta slaughterhouse for meat.”

In 2014, Arden described her opposition to the Alberta horse cull and her feelings about horses, stating:  “They just need to be treated with respect. I know there needs to be some sensibility, but why does the fucking solution have to always be killing something?”  Yet killing is the Stampede’s solution to unwanted bucking horses. Isn’t there a double-standard here?

Perhaps Arden is not aware of Stampede’s horse culling policy but is she also unaware of what happens to other rodeo animals?

DSC_0021Does she know that steers died in the Stampede rodeo’s steer-wrestling event in 2014 and 2013?

Steer-wrestling involves riders jumping onto steers and twisting their necks until they fall to the ground.  Both steers had to be euthanized because of neck injuries.

Steer-wrestling has nothing to do with real ranch work. It was invented for rodeo in the 1930s.  It’s just entertainment.

Perhaps Arden is unaware of the suffering of other rodeo animals such as the three-month-old calves that are chased, roped, thrown to the ground and tied up. Or the steers that are roped by the horns and hind legs and stretched off their feet. Or the bulls and bucking horses that are tormented into bucking by the flank strap tightened around their hindquarters.  And all these animals suffer for the mere amusement of a crowd.

Ad calfDoes Arden care that virtually all animal welfare agencies around the world are opposed to rodeos – organizations like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the national SPCAs of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK.

And does she care that most of her fellow Canadians are opposed to rodeo, with a recent poll showing that only three-in-ten Canadians are in favour of using animals in rodeos?

Let Jann Arden know that rodeo is cruel

If you think Jann Arden needs to rethink her support of the Calgary Stampede, please let her know.

Below are some actions you can take to send her a message.

You can tweet one of the messages below by clicking on it. (You will need to be logged in to Twitter.):

Tweet: .@jannarden Please don’t support the Calgary Stampede rodeo & chucks. The Stampede culls unwanted bucking horses. Rodeo animals suffer!

Tweet: .@jannarden Surprised you are supporting the Calgary Stampede, which is known for animal cruelty. Please reconsider!

Tweet: .@jannarden As an animal lover aren’t you concerned about the treatment of horses and rodeo animals at Stampede? 65 dead horses since 1986!

Or simply compose your own tweet to her at @jannarden

You can politely comment on Jann Arden’s Facebook page.

Every time you take a stand for the animals it makes a difference.



animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Why is a convicted wildlife poacher on the board of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association?

dead steer1 040523Rodeo046
Rodeo isn’t known for its kindness to animals but its board members should be held to some standard of ethical behaviour.

VHS calls for removal of rodeo association board member



The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s Animal Welfare Guide states that it “supports the responsible and humane use of animals and believes that all animals utilized in entertainment, industry and sport should be afforded proper care and management.”

Presumably, this includes the “sport” of hunting but one of the CPRA’s board directors, Cody Cassidy, doesn’t seem to afford wildlife “proper care and management.”  In fact, Mr. Cassidy pleaded guilty to several poaching-related charges in July of last year, according to the Red Deer Advocate. The charges included hunting without a licence, possession of wildlife and controlled animals, and providing false or misleading information. Mr. Cassidy received a $16,000 fine and a one-year judicial order preventing him from obtaining an outfitting-guide permit.

The presiding judge at Red Deer Provincial Court cited Mr. Cassidy’s history of these types of offences, including guiding on private property without permission, failing to post signs in an area of black bear bait, unauthorized hunting and discharging a firearm on private property without permission.

Mr. Cassidy’s father Greg, a champion steer-wrestler also pleaded guilty to poaching charges in the same case. He was inducted into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame just months later.

Cody Cassidy operates Big Knife outfitters, which takes clients on moose hunts. His father Greg volunteers with the company. The Red Deer Advocate’s account of the court case includes a description of the hunt, which aside from the poaching offences, raises concerns about the hunt itself. It states: “Greg and the client were hunting at one of the Central Alberta locations when they spotted a moose.The client shot the moose with one arrow, which did not kill the moose. Cody joined the hunt and they tracked the moose for three hours. When they caught up with the moose, they shot it with a few more arrows, killing it.” It is difficult to see how this animal could not have suffered during the three hours after it was wounded.

VHS has written to CPRA president Murry Milan, calling for Mr. Cassidy to be removed from the board. The letter states: “Clearly, these are serious offences for someone in a position of responsibility at the CPRA, who should be held to the highest ethical standards.  We find it unacceptable that Mr. Cassidy remains as director on the CPRA board.”

The CPRA can be contacted at




animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

CBC to broadcast rodeo cruelty again

Calf roping 05

CBC Sports is once again planning to broadcast the rodeo and chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede.

CBC continues to ignore the fact that a majority of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeos, as shown in recent polls.  Our national public broadcaster is supposed to reflect Canadian values.  Instead, it persists in broadcasting events that subject animals to fear, pain, stress and the undue risk of injury and death – all for the sake of entertainment.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign our petition.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur