animal welfare compassion cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Why is the UBC alumni association promoting the Calgary Stampede’s cruel rodeo events?



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


It’s surprising and disappointing to learn that the University of British Columbia’s alumni association, Alumni UBC, is offering a trip to the Calgary Stampede rodeo to its members. It’s disappointing for obvious reasons – animals shouldn’t suffer for the sake of entertainment – but surprising because universities and their wider communities are often the agents of progressive social change.

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A number of UBC’s alumni who are associated with VHS (directors, former directors, staff) signed a letter to the association last year, urging an end to the promotion, but it’s being offered again this year.

Presumably, Alumni UBC sees nothing wrong with tormenting animals.  Perhaps they find the photos on this page perfectly acceptable.  Most likely, they just see the Stampede as a tradition and see no reason to challenge it.

It’s a shame that when this issue was brought to the association’s attention, no one there had the intellectual curiosity to ask some questions about the ethics of rodeo.

Questions like this: When does an accepted tradition become unethical?

Sometimes you can put a date on it. Dog fighting, bear baiting, and bull baiting were outlawed in England by the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835. But that doesn’t tell us when the critical mass was reached that allowed that change to take place. When did watching animals tear each other apart go from crowd-pleasing fun to socially unacceptable?

It’s even more difficult to determine when we’re approaching that critical mass on an issue in our own time. But sometimes there are clear signs.

VHS has been campaigning against cruelty to rodeo animals for a long time.  It’s still popular in a number of Canadian towns and, of course, at the Stampede. Nevertheless, cracks are appearing in public support for rodeo.

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

The most obvious indicators are polls showing most Canadians don’t support rodeos.  A December 2015 survey by polling company Insights West found that 63 per cent of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeos (66% in BC). Does Alumni UBC care that they are promoting something most Canadians think is wrong?

But polls are not the whole story. The cancellation of two professional rodeos in B.C. in the last two years (and half the events at Surrey’s Cloverdale Rodeo in 2007) signal a real lack of public support for rodeo on the West Coast. It’s no wonder the City of Vancouver banned rodeos in 2006.

Last year, the Vancouver Sun became the first daily newspaper in Canada to take an official editorial stance opposing rodeo.

In the same month, six other independent opinion editorials questioned the ethics of rodeo, including a piece by a member of the Calgary Herald’s editorial board, who wrote: “…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?”

Most mainstream animal welfare organizations are opposed to rodeos, including our own BC SPCA, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the national SPCAs of the United States, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

These are the institutions we entrust with the protection of animals and they think rodeo is inhumane. So do most British Columbians. So do most Canadians. So does the City of Vancouver. But not, apparently, Alumni UBC.

Back in 1835, there were few institutions to fight for the welfare of animals. But the compassion of enlightened Christian reformers brought about the critical mass necessary for profound change.

Today, our animal welfare organizations have made the case against rodeo. Now we need people of conscience, community leaders, educational institutions and civic organizations to recognize that it’s wrong to make animals suffer for the sake of human amusement.  Shouldn’t the alumni association of one Canada’s best universities be among them?

Please send a polite email to Alumni UBC asking them to stop promoting the Calgary Stampede rodeo.

More about rodeo here.


Ad calf
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur
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Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

Calf being viciously roped at Calgary Stampede


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Bareback Riding

Calf face crop Rodeo-99


073115 - Abbotsford, BC Chung Chow photo 2015 Agrifair Rodeo in Abbotsford. Bronco riding Bronco refused to get up until motivated by the cowboy behind the fence.

animal welfare cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Great news: Abbotsford rodeo cancelled!

073115 - Abbotsford, BC Chung Chow photo 2015 Agrifair Rodeo in Abbotsford. Steer wrestling
This won’t be happening at the Abbotsford Agrifair


The Abbotsford Agrifair’s rodeo has been cancelled.  Organizers say the decision to cancel the rodeo was made to save money, but the event has been surrounded in controversy because of the inhumane treatment of rodeo animals.

VHS has been campaigning against the Abbotsford rodeo for years, calling media and public attention to cruel events like calf-roping and steer-wrestling. Last year, nearly 2000 VHS supporters emailed the Agrifair to call for an end to such events.  VHS also contacted the rodeo’s sponsors, asking them to end their support.  Our campaign, backed by radio ads and social media reached thousands of Abbotsford residents and compassionate people across the province.  Clearly, the message is getting through: There is no place in the 21st century for events that abuse animals for the sake of entertainment.

This is the second B.C. rodeo to fold after campaigns by VHS.  In 2015, the Luxton Rodeo on Vancouver Island was also cancelled.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our campaigns against rodeo cruelty.  With your help, we’ll continue this fight.  Watch this space!


animal welfare News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Poll: Most Canadians oppose rodeo

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

So why does CBC keep broadcasting it?

VHS has long criticized CBC Sports for broadcasting the Calgary Stampede rodeo.  The CBC has refused to end its coverage despite the clear evidence that animals suffer in rodeos.  They’ve told us that the Stampede is “a longstanding Canadian tradition and is popular with millions of Canadians across this country.”

Really? The facts show that when you ask Canadians across this country how they feel about rodeo, most of them are opposed to it.

A new national public opinion survey on animal welfare issues shows only three in ten (31%) Canadians are in favour of using animals in rodeos.  The survey, by polling company Insights West, found that a solid majority of Canadians (63%) are opposed to rodeos and that Alberta is the only province with a majority (57%) in favour of rodeo.

calf ropingcropVHS has relayed the results of the poll to management at CBC Sports and is awaiting a response. During the 2015 Calgary Stampede, VHS launched a petition calling on CBC to end its broadcast of the Stampede rodeo.  If you haven’t signed the petition, please do. More than 11,000 people already have.

Let CBC Sports know that you are among millions of Canadians opposed to rodeo – and you are in the majority. Remind them that this is the 21st century and animal abuse has no place in modern Canada. Tell them that causing animals to suffer for the sake of entertainment is immoral.  Tell them to stop putting cruelty on our television screens and calling it a sport.

Please support our continuing campaign against rodeo cruelty. We convinced the City of Vancouver to ban rodeo and we’ve won victories against the Cloverdale Rodeo in Surrey and the Luxton Rodeo on Vancouver Island. Your donation will help us win more!

More information:

Rodeo cruelty
The Calgary Stampede

News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Poll shows BC is turning against rodeo

073115 - Abbotsford, BC Chung Chow photo 2015 Agrifair Rodeo in Abbotsford. Calf roping. Red shirts were responsible for releasing the tied down calves.

We’re changing hearts and minds in the battle against rodeo cruelty in B.C.

A new public opinion survey by polling company Insights West shows that 62% of British Columbians are opposed to using animals in rodeos.  That’s up six percentage points from a 2013 Insights West poll on the same issue which showed 56% opposed.

The new poll also found that only 32% of B.C. residents are in favour of using animals in rodeos, down from 38% in 2013. Clearly, public opinion is moving against rodeo.

In 2005, an Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by VHS showed that a majority (61%) of people in B.C. supported rodeos and 32% were opposed.  The times they are a-changin’!

VHS has been campaigning against rodeo cruelty for many years, helping to end calf-roping, steer-wrestling and team-roping at the Cloverdale Rodeo, securing a ban on rodeos in the City of Vancouver and partnering with Victoria Citizens Against Rodeo Events to put an end to the Luxton Rodeo on Vancouver Island.

The new poll also showed that even in Alberta, home of the Calgary Stampede and the heartland of rodeo, only 55% of residents are in favour of using animals in rodeos. A strong minority, 39%, are opposed. Our campaign against animal cruelty at the Stampede is having an impact!

The poll also showed that large majorities in B.C. are opposed to hunting animals for sport (91%) and killing animals for their fur (81%).

VHS has worked hard to expose inhumane rodeo events in the media, gaining substantial coverage every year.  This year, the Vancouver Sun became the first newspaper in Canada to take an editorial position against rodeo, stating that:

“The Vancouver Humane Society for years has been leading the charge against rodeo events such as calf roping, steer wrestling and chuckwagon racing, based on a premise that these activities subject animals to fear, pain, stress and the risk of injury or death, for no greater purpose than the entertainment of spectators.”

We’re going to continue that charge and with your support we know we can win. As these polls show, people are waking up to the cruelty involved in rodeo and they want it to end.

073115 - Abbotsford, BC Chung Chow photo 2015 Agrifair Rodeo in Abbotsford. Bronco riding Bronco refused to get up until motivated by the cowboy behind the fence.


animal welfare News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Calgary Stampede under fire for purchasing favourable “journalism”

Screenshot Canadaland

Canadaland reports that in 2011, the Calgary Stampede commissioned a piece to run in prestigious magazine Canadian Geographic. Journalist Curtis Gillespie thoroughly investigated, and ultimately wrote a piece entitled “Rodeo under scrutiny: The debate over animal care at the Calgary Stampede.”


Among other things, the balanced piece explained that horses were bred specifically to buck; horses who didn’t buck wildly enough were slaughtered. Gillespie’s editor called the piece “brilliant” and a “magnum opus.”


However, the publisher decided to pull the story at the last minute and instead ran a piece by someone who had previously published a book called “Celebrating the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.”


Canadian Geographic ran the Stampede-friendly piece, “Rodeo renewal: How animal-care practices are changing perceptions of the century-old Stampede.” It was not identified as sponsored content.


In spite of its unethical advertising practices disguised as journalism, the Stampede’s attempts to create the illusion that rodeo is positive are failing. Public opinion across Canada is turning firmly against this barbaric spectacle of violence against animals.

Fortunately, the truth about the Stampede sending horses to slaughter did come out in 2012.

Please visit our rodeo campaign page to learn more about this issue and what you can do to help.

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.

Media Release

Abbotsford newspaper refuses to publish anti-rodeo ad

July 17, 2015

Humane society says free speech denied

Vancouver – The Abbotsford News has refused to print a full-page ad from the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) that raises concerns about the treatment of animals at the upcoming Agrifair rodeo (July 31-Aug 3) in Abbotsford. VHS says the rejection is a denial of free speech.

The ad shows a photo of steer-wrestling taken at the Agrifair rodeo in 2008 with a caption asking: “That’s entertainment?” It states that rodeo animals are subjected to fear, pain and stress and urges people who care about animals not to attend the event.

VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker says the ad has been checked by VHS’s lawyers and contained nothing that should preclude publication.  “This is simply fair comment on a public issue but it appears the Abbotsford News has a problem with freedom of expression,” said Fricker.

Fricker said VHS had offered to consider amending the ad to meet the newspaper’s concerns but had received no response.

The ad can be seen here.


Media Release

VHS says public must urge halt to chuckwagonrace

Fourth horse dies at Calgary Stampede

VANCOUVER, July 13, 2015 /CNW/ – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling on the Canadian public to express its outrage at the death of four horses in the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races, following the death of yet another horse in the event on Sunday.

“The Stampede has made endless excuses about the continued loss of chuckwagon horses and has failed to stop these deaths,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker.

“The race is fundamentally unsafe and horses just keep dying,” said Fricker. “People need to let the Stampede know that this is unacceptable.”

VHS has repeatedly called on the Stampede to suspend the race and establish an independent panel of experts to determine if anything can be done to make the race safer.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 people have signed a VHS online petition calling for CBC Sports to stop television coverage of the Calgary Stampede rodeo:

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society

Media Release

Stop the chuckwagon race now

Stop the chuckwagon race now

Second horse dies at Calgary Stampede

VANCOUVER, Juy 8, 2015 – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is repeating its call for the immediate suspension of the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race, following the death of a second horse in three days at the event.

“People across Canada are outraged and they are sick of hearing about the needless death of horses at the Stampede,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker.

VHS says the Stampede should suspend the race and establish a panel of independent equine experts to determine if anything can be done to make the race safer.

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society