Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Rodeos to go on despite Green Party concerns over animal cruelty

A rider at the Upper Mohaka Rodeo held in January. Photo /  Duncan Brown
A rider at the Upper Mohaka Rodeo held in January. Photo / Duncan Brown

The more than 35 rodeos held in New Zealand each year shouldn't be banned, a Parliamentary committee has concluded - a finding criticised by the Green Party.

Nearly 63,000 people signed a petition asking for rodeos to be banned and organised on behalf of the SPCA, Safe and Farmwatch.

Animals suffer unnecessary pain and suffering, there would be limited effect socially and economically from a ban, and there is broad public support for banning rodeos, the petitioners argued.

Calf-roping, bucking events and steer wrestling were highlighted as examples of rodeo acts that were inherently cruel.

However, a report on the petition by Parliament's primary production committee concludes there are adequate animal welfare safeguards.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) in October 2014 concluded a lengthy review of the 2003 code of animal welfare, which called for a ban on sheep riding at rodeos and made attendance by a vet and safety officer compulsory.

"NAWAC also noted that there was considerable debate on the question of calf roping in rodeos. It concluded that no harm is done to the calf, provided that the calf is not pulled over (busted)," the committee's report states.

A Rodeos Code of Welfare includes requirements such as animals being inspected by a vet before performing, and that they be handled in a way to reduce distress.

The Ministry of Primary Industries has an enforcement role to ensure the welfare code is being met, and told the committee that compliance was sufficient.

It and NAWAC also submitted that the petitioner's claim that scrapping rodeos would have little negative social and economic effect was "untested".

"They told us, on the contrary, rodeos are one of the many competitive events that occur in rural communities and that they play an important part in building and maintaining the cohesion of these communities."

The committee noted that NAWAC was currently considering guidelines for "closer regulation and reduction" of animals used in rodeos.

In a minority view, the Green Party said the code of welfare for rodeo animals did not go far enough, and it was highly concerning that electric prods, rope burning, flank straps and calf roping were all currently permitted.

Mojo Mathers, the party's animal welfare spokeswoman, said rodeo was "outdated and cruel".

"Although further changes are planned to the code of welfare, it was very disappointing to hear that it will still allow animals, including baby calves, to be subject to pain and distress."

- NZ Herald

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