Each year, thousands of rodeo events take place across the nation. While often touted as an all-American sport and family event, the rodeo is far from enjoyable for the animals forced to compete. The ASPCA firmly believes the rodeo is a cruel form of entertainment that involves the painful, stressful and potentially harmful treatment of livestocknot only in performance, but also in handling and transport. Furthermore, the ASPCA is opposed to children’s rodeo events such as goat tying, and calf and sheep riding, which do not promote humane care and respect for animals.
Aren’t broncos and bulls wild by nature?
No, acting “wild” is just an act! Most rodeo events rely on creating a stressful environment for the domesticated and often very docile animals involved. Participants often rely on harsh handling practices to make the animals run faster or buck harderthe rougher the animals appear the more thrilling the event is to the audience. Calves may have their tails twisted before leaving the chute, while horses and bulls are forced to wear tight bucking straps that pinch into their highly sensitive abdomen and groin area. Most riders wear metal spurs that dig into the flanks of the animals to further aggravate them. Bulls are frequently given a painful electric shock by a hand-held prod, causing extreme feral behavior. While some rodeo association rules advise against the use of electric prods and other such cruel handling methods, these guidelines are typically voluntary.
Do rodeo animals get injured?
Yes. Injuries to animals, including sprains and bruises, broken limbs, ripped tendons, broken necks and even death occur. The worst injuries happen to young animals, such as calves, in roping and wrestling events.
How are the animals transported?
Rodeo animals suffer the stress of constant travel in overcrowded trucks and trailers. These vehicles are often improperly ventilated, and feeding and watering does not occur regularly. According to the Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association (PCRA), animals can be confined or transported in vehicles for as long as 24 hours without being properly fed, watered or unloaded.
What’s wrong with calf roping?
In this event, a four- to five-month-old calf is released from a chute and chased on horseback. The calf can reach speeds approaching thirty miles per hour to escape before being jerked by the neck to an abrupt stop by a lasso. As soon as the calf is lassoed, the rider jumps from the horse, and throws the calf to the ground. Points are earned if three legs can be tied within 30 seconds of the calf being released from the chute. Since the terrified calf is running at such a high speed when lassoed, the rope often snaps with a force strong enough to yank the calf off his feet and into the air. This action may result in neck injuryat times, death occurs if the neck is broken.
What’s wrong with steer wrestling?
In this event, a steer is released and chased by two riders. One rider keeps the steer running in a straight line, while the other leaps from his horse, grabbing the steer by the horns. This rider twists the steer's neck around until the animal falls to the ground. The contestant has 30 seconds from the time the steer is released to throw him to the ground. Apart from the high stress level the animal endures during this event, the neck of the steer can be seriously injuredripped tendons, sprains and bruising and even a broken neck can result.
What’s wrong with bucking events?
In bucking events, the rider’s goal is to stay on the animal for at least eight seconds after being released from the chute. In this event, bucking straps and electric prods are commonly used to motivate the animals into behaving roughly. Spurs are also used to further aggravate the animal.
What’s wrong with steer busting?
This is considered one of the deadliest rodeo events and is actually banned in several states. In this event, a steer is released and chased by a rider who ropes him in such a way that the 500 to 600 pound animal flips over in the air and crashes to the ground on his back. The steer is thrown so fast and often slammed with such force that some do not survive.
How can I help?
There are many ways you can help end the cruelties of the rodeo industry:
Do not attend rodeo events. When a rodeo comes to your area, make sure the correct permits have been obtained. Also, contact your local law enforcement agency or humane society and ask them to make sure the rodeo follows local and state laws regarding the humane treatment of animals.
Educate family and friends about the animal welfare problems and safety concerns related to rodeo events.
Attend a city council meeting. Counties, cities and even universities have succeeded in keeping cruel circuses out by banning wild and exotic animal performances. If you’re interested in passing a similar ordinance where you live, get involved in your local government.
Fight for state and federal laws that protect animals and raise the minimum allowable standards of care. Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to be alerted when it’s time to take action on animal-related legislation.