Rodeo might be rough, but it’s not abuse

The Vancouver Humane Society would like to see an end to two traditional events at the Chilliwack Rodeo

I admit I have a soft spot for rodeo. Perhaps it’s my Alberta roots showing, or just the time I spent in the barns and near the bucking chutes as I worked as a reporter for a small prairie newspaper.

I was a city boy through and through, so the learning curve was steep. What I remember most were the people – both the competitors and the stock handlers – and the passion they had for what they did.

It wasn’t so much a sport, but a way of life – and a not very glamorous one at that.

Money might be made in the upper echelons of the pro rodeo circuit in the U.S., but most Canadian cowboys and girls need secondary jobs to cover their bills.

The costs are high and the pay cheques are small. And yet, they’ll spend months on the road, traveling to the next rodeo even before the one they’re at has ended.

There is a camaraderie they share (although cowboys from the rough stock events and the timed events seem to be cut from different cloth). They see their sport as an homage to the people who helped carve a life in a landscape that required both strength and mutual support.

Cowboys don’t compete against each other. In fact, it’s not unusual for them to share the cost of a horse, help with the hazing, or share a truck and a trailer.

And there is something else most share: an appreciation for the animals that are such a part of their world.

Most have grown up around livestock, learning to ride a horse before city kids see their first bike; learning to handle cattle that are easily three times their weight.

The animals aren’t pets. They’re not coddled. But neither are they abused.

That respect continues into the rodeo ring. Stock contractors understand the value of the animals in their care. They know that if they’re called on to supply bulls, bucking horses, calves and steers, the stock better be healthy. A veterinarian is on site, and most rodeos work in partnerships with the local SPCA.

Cowboys, too, understand the value of the stock. Their horses can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. They are trained athletes that must be cared for properly if they are going to perform at their best. The bulls they ride, the calves they rope and the steers they wrestle also have to be in top form.

To be sure, rodeo is a tough sport, both for the competitors and the animals. But is it abuse, as some claim? Is it cruel and inhumane?

I don’t think so. There is no deliberate attempt to injure or harm the animals. In fact, steps are taken to ensure that doesn’t occur. A cowboy is docked time if a calf is handled poorly; a bronc is returned to the stockyard if it’s too anxious in the chute.

The Chilliwack Fair Board is being asked to re-evaluate the inclusion of tie-down roping (calf roping) and steer wrestling in its annual rodeo.

I’m hoping they measure the facts carefully and rely on more than emotional observations and outside complaints made to event sponsors.

Rodeo is a part of our heritage. Let’s not surrender it easily.

Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress

Just Posted

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants stretch win streak to four by crowning Victoria Royals

Home team owned the play and won despite running into a hot goaltender on Friday

VIDEO: The Force will be with bidders at massive Stars Wars auction

Able Auctions at 19757 92A Ave. hosts event that’s open to public Saturday

Van fire sends plume of black smoke into sky above Willowbrook

Vehicle a charred shell in fire that slowed Friday commute home

South Surrey shots-fired accused due back in court Jan. 2

Cameron Barton arrested Sept. 25 in White Rock

AHUS patient Shantee Anaquod is home for Christmas

Less than a month after receiving first dose of $750K drug, 23 year old healthy enough to go home

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Family Christmas fun at Aldergrove’s Loft Country farm

The Loft Country children’s horse camp in Aldergrove is celebrating Christmas in a new way this year

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

VIDEO: 3 months later, rescued sea lion released back into ocean

The young animal was found in Campbell River three months ago

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

UPDATED: Train collides with car in Maple Ridge

Mother and child both uninjured, track cleared at 11 a.m.

Accused B.C. drug smuggler to be extradited

Supreme Court of Canada upholds extradition order for accused Shuswap drug smuggler, Colin Martin

One convicted, two cleared in 2014 deaths of men in B.C.’s Cariboo

Andrew Jongbloets convicted of manslaughter in deaths of Matthew Hennigar, 23 and Kalvin Andy, 22

VIDEO: Pedestrian struck by vehicle caught on security camera

Incident points to danger on the roads not only in low light but also in bright sunshine

Most Read