It has to be said, New Zealand farmers are behind the brutal treatment of animals at rodeos. Farmers not only compete in, organise, announce and judge at these shows, but they provide the animals — calves for calf roping, steers for the animal wrestling events, and the bulls and horses to coerce into writhing and thrashing.

Without the support of NZ farmers, rodeo would end overnight.

Relying upon claims of high animal welfare standards for our exports, farmers have omitted to mention to our international markets that they are the head, backbone, arms and legs of these violence-against-animals shows. It's time farmers were taken to task over rodeo by more than the usual activists.

High welfare standards and rodeo cannot exist side by side. Any farmer that condones throttling calves at the end of a rope, or animal wrestling — putting steers in a headlock and twisting their heads 180 degrees — for a bit of fun, has no business in dairying or any other activity involving animals. These rogue farmers are a threat to our economy.


While some farmers are rightly appalled by rodeo, many farmers and their staff attend rodeos for enjoyment, as spectators. Rodeos are only held rurally and are deemed necessary for rural cohesion.

Indeed, many of our politicians agree with this and also defend rodeo, including, sadly, Winston Peters, Ron Mark and Damien O'Connor in our new coalition Government.

Rural-urban divide, call it what you will. Cruelty is cruelty.

To underscore farming commitment to rodeo you only need to hear the excuses, justifications and denial of cruelty. One claim was that calf roping is no different to walking a dog on a lead.

These farmers claim that what happens at rodeos is only what happens on New Zealand farms. Defending rodeo assault on animals renders those farmers unfit to be in charge of animals.

Rodeo clubs are trying to hide their animal abuse from the public. Photo / Farmwatch
Rodeo clubs are trying to hide their animal abuse from the public. Photo / Farmwatch

Considering the violence towards animals exposed by Farmwatch in the past few years, and the media stories of hundreds (surely the tip of the iceberg) of cows that had their tails deliberately broken by farmers, or were starved or beaten, or all three, that claim is not surprising.

And then there are the images of cows whose bodies have been painted with the words "I am an a…hole" or "b…." posted by farmers that attracted 9000 likes, loves and laughs and 1000 shares until Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) got a hold of them and they disappeared.

It's hard to imagine Dairy NZ, Fonterra, or Beef and Lamb NZ utilising images like this, or the gruesome images of rodeo to showcase our animal welfare standards to the world. That they don't, says something.


Images that are used for farming are nothing like the violence seen at rodeos, but are more like the 50-year-old, soft-focus industry propaganda machine, Country Calendar.

As far as I'm aware, these industry giants have never condemned rodeo or refused to purchase from rodeo farmers, or supported the petition to ban it. It's time this changed.

Farming organisations and lobby groups need to condemn rodeo and insist it ends now. They can do this by contacting the Government today.

New Zealand's clean, green claims have now been shown to be false. Our animal welfare claims are also false and not worth the paper they're written on.

How could our national animal welfare advisory committee advise the Government against banning rodeo in 2016? Animals experience real violence at these shows.

The committee knows the code of welfare prevents prosecution for what is outright ill-treatment of animals at rodeos. They wrote the code with the help of the rodeo association. The code is little more than a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Without the code, rodeo would be prosecutable under the Animal Welfare Act. (Yep, you may need to read that again).

Stacked largely with farmers and rural members, ex or current, the animal welfare committee spoke to a parliamentary select committee also stacked with farmers and acknowledged the rural connection to committee members.

The audio recording sounds like a boys club in action.

After thrashing in the chute, a distressed horse goes down at a New Zealand rodeo. Photo / Farmwatch
After thrashing in the chute, a distressed horse goes down at a New Zealand rodeo. Photo / Farmwatch

Despite sterling presentations from RNZSPCA and SAFE, asking for a ban, what it revealed is that farming representatives think torturing animals — bashing, wrestling, neck-twisting, shocking, throttling and assaulting animals in violent, sadistic displays — is acceptable rural entertainment.

Rodeo and its farmers are trying to stop activists from showing the public the violence they inflict. Activists are subjected to intimidation.

At Warkworth rodeo last week we were asked to leave or face a two-year trespass. Mothers enlisted groups of children aged from 4 through to 16 or so, to stand in front of our cameras to block our filming.

Teaching children to harass adults is not something any decent society should stand for. Thanks to the police for stepping in and doing the right thing.

Canterbury rodeo last weekend searched spectator's bags for cameras, trespassed one activist, and escorted another off the Mandeville sports grounds. As the rodeo official said, they don't want anyone showing rodeo in a negative light.

Rodeo clubs are trying to hide their animal abuse from the public. Our new Government needs to know this, as it speaks volumes, and makes urgent the necessity for a full ban on rodeo.

While the animals wait, the world is watching.

• Lynn Charlton is spokeswoman for Anti Rodeo Action NZ.