Martinborough rodeo protest looms

By Hayley Gastmeier hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
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Animal rights activists will be making a stand against rodeos at this evening's Martinborough bull-riding event. PHOTO/FILE
Animal rights activists will be making a stand against rodeos at this evening's Martinborough bull-riding event. PHOTO/FILE

Animal rights activists will be taking a stand against rodeos at tonight's Pukemanu Bullride in Martinborough.

A protest organised by animal welfare organisations SAFE, SPCA and Farmwatch, will follow other demonstrations around New Zealand calling for a nationwide ban on rodeos.

Rodeos are banned in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and banned or restricted in parts of North America and Europe.

"New Zealand is lagging behind," says Wellington Animal Rights Network spokeswoman Hannah Lessells. "Rodeo is basically legalised cruelty and the current [NZ] laws don't protect the animals."

Miss Lessells, from South Wairarapa, said it would be a silent protest.

"We're not there to to cause lots of noise and aggression. We're just there to get a message across to the people that are attending."

She said the sport inflicted "immense distress and fear" on the bulls and it was a case of "torturing animals for entertainment".

"Their tails and necks are twisted, they are poked with electric cattle prods and young calves are roped around their necks and thrown to the ground. This just isn't acceptable."

Miss Lessells said rodeos were often advertised as family events. "But we should be showing children to be compassionate towards animals, rather than causing animals to stress while abusing them."

New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association secretary Shane Bird is one of the organisers behind the Pukemanu Bullride, which is happening for its third consecutive year.

"[The activists] are entitled to their opinion and they are entitled to protest and as long as they don't interfere with our event they can be there," Mr Bird said.

He said a rodeo consisted of seven events and usually ran all day, but no single bull would be at the grounds for more than four hours.

"No animals will be out all day without being provided with shade, feed and water."

He said animal welfare groups often made "it look really bad" through picking footage to create videos which depicted rodeos as cruel events.

"They are misinforming the public. I challenge people who have never been to a rodeo to come along and see what goes on for themselves. Come and see it for yourself and make up your own mind."

The event is at the Martinborough Transport Yard on Lake Ferry Rd and begins at 6pm. An online petition calling for the New Zealand government to ban rodeo so far has gathered over 42,000 signatures and will be submitted to Parliament mid-March.

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