Michael Laws and Radio New Zealand host Kim Hill recently treated us to a lively debate on rodeo's alleged cruelty.

Laws is the mouthpiece for the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association and raised valid points; foremost was that there's no state evidence of cruelty at rodeos.

Hill countered that if someone roped a dog at speed, snatched it on to its back and hog-tied it then said cowboy would be prosecuted for ill treatment.

Laws advised not to confuse companion animals with farm animals.

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He's spot on there. Society long ago decided not all creatures are created equal; compare our disparate views on 'sentient' dolphins and savage sharks.

What saves rodeo, and by extension bullfighting, is risk. An 85kg chap against a 1000kg horned beast - fair fight, yes? A level playing field, nobility and the real spectre of death tend to mitigate bloodiness.

Let's remember rodeo stands in stark contrast to the valiant 'hunters' who bag Africa's big game from the safe end of a rifle.

Laws' and Hill's dust-up delineates neatly the conundrum of an increasingly enlightened but agrarian-anchored New Zealand.

But as robust as his case is, methinks Laws rationalising rodeo on the basis of a lack of cruelty evidence is, ironically, somewhat insentient.

Admittedly, the beef-eating Neanderthal within me would love to head along to the next local rodeo.

Yet the alpha-species within means our onus is to acknowledge the obvious inference available to all right-minded individuals that these animals aren't having much fun.

As the most progressive, privileged and sentient beings of all, we should lead this pastime to pasture.