Animal-rights groups are again trying to disrupt this Saturday night's annual Top Gun Shootout bull ride at the CHB A&P Show, renewing calls for the public to boycott the event because of cruelty concerns.
But organisers of the Waipukurau bull-riding event, the first in the seven-round 2017/18 Parklee Bull Ride Series, reject suggestions of cruelty and say the event complies with strict national animal-welfare standards.
Animal advocacy group SAFE said last week it had obtained footage by "investigators" it claimed showed bulls being riled up into "performing" at rodeos, including being shocked with electric prods, jabbed and kicked, and having dirt rubbed in their faces.
Though the footage was not from the Waipukurau event, SAFE urged Hawke's Bay residents to "steer clear of rodeo cruelty" and avoid the bull-riding night at the CHB A&P Show.
The group made a similar call before last year's event and announced it was even planning to stage a protest at the CHB showgrounds.
However the protesters were a no-show and their boycott call appeared to backfire, as the biggest crowd ever turned out for the bull-riding event, which was attended by a vet and the SPCA.
SAFE campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald said last week's footage was evidence of the "severe stress" the bulls were put through at rodeos and bull-riding events.
"This is animal cruelty purely for the entertainment of a minority."
She said a 62,000-signature petition presented to a New Zealand parliamentary inquiry into rodeos last year was evidence that most New Zealanders wanted to see an end to rodeo.
Shane Bird, from Parklee Bucking Bulls, also vice-president of the NZ Rodeo Cowboys Association, dismissed SAFE's claims as an attempt to create controversy.
"It seems SAFE are beating the same drum, which hasn't been getting the results they want.
"Despite all their claims, there is not a single piece of scientific evidence to show that animals suffer at rodeo [or] bull-riding events," he said.
CHB A&P Association president Chris Menzies said rodeo was a sport, not just entertainment, and SAFE had no scientific evidence to back up its cruelty claims.
"All the scientific studies undertaken in Australia and the USA have found there is no undue duress on animals competing in rodeos."
He said last year's parliamentary inquiry by the Primary Production select committee had found no reason to ban rodeos and was unable to make any recommendations to further improve animal welfare.
"And [the Ministry for Primary Industries] has produced a welfare code for rodeos which we abide to," Mr Menzies said.
"With reference to bulls being riled up and electric shocks from prodders, these are not allowed within the code - but they are used by SAFE to try to stir up emotion."
Mr Menzies said he took issue with SAFE's tactics and was concerned at the wording of last year's petition.
"Would it have been devoid of emotional rhetoric? I doubt it."
As for the 62,000 signatures on the petition, he said that equated to only 1.73 per cent of the population.
"Once again, a small minority ruining it for the majority."
However, he whole-heartedly agreed with SAFE's stated aim of stamping out the "bullying" of animals.
"But why is it that SAFE uses these same tactics to bully our sponsors and supplier with vindictive emails?" he said.
The bull-riding event has been the traditional finale to the three-day show for more than a decade.
Thousands of locals are expected through the gates of the 105th CHB A&P Show which starts today with the Tux New Zealand Yarding Challenge dog trials and equestrian events, with the majority turning out for Show Day on Saturday.
• See chbshow.co.nz for details.