Is it sport or animal cruelty?

Animal activists SAFE have released footage of the Mid Northern Rodeo near Whangarei which it says shows a breach of the Ministry of Primary Industries rodeo code, and the "brutality" of rodeo events.

However, the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association denies the breach and says animals sometimes get "over-excited" when they're released from pens.

The Ministry of Primary Industries confirmed to RNZ the footage was being investigated.

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The footage filmed by Anti-Rodeo Action NZ at the rodeo on January 14 and 15 shows horses and cattle falling over and being pushed into pens, as well as the alleged illegal use of an electric prod on a calf.

The Rodeo Code of Welfare states electric prodders must not be used on animals other than adult cattle.

"Rodeo is nothing more than a display of bullying animals for entertainment," SAFE campaign manager Mandy Carter said.

"Being prey animals, calves, bulls and horses are naturally wary and a rodeo environment can cause them severe distress."

According to SAFE, the footage showed animals which were clearly fearful and stressed.

"The new footage shows that rodeo events are inhumane ... Rodeo events involve causing bulls and horses to buck with the use of tight flank straps, and wrestling steers to the ground by wrenching their heads around until they fall.

"Vulnerable calves are chased, wrenched off their feet by ropes, then have their legs tied together."

But Rodeo Cowboys Association president Marty Deans told the Herald it was "all about perception".

"We have a strict MPI code which we stick to. [The animals] get over-excited when they're released. That's all it is."

He said while the footage showed a man holding an electric prodder moving his hand towards a calf, he didn't use it on the calf.

Deans invited anyone who took issue with the footage to attend a rodeo.

"A lot of people who complain have actually never been to a rodeo, they just form an opinion on what they're told.

"Come to a rodeo and look for yourself."

The ministry is developing its codes of welfare.

"We are developing some regulations, what you'll find is that there'll be some regulations in development which will allow us to have some extra teeth in terms of the enforcement," the ministry's head of animal welfare compliance, Chris Rodwell, told RNZ.