Warkworth event sparks renewed calls for rodeo ban

Warkworth event sparks renewed calls for rodeo ban

There are renewed calls to bans rodeos as thousands gear up to watch a New Year's event in Warkworth.

Animal rights groups claim it's horrific abuse, but rodeo organisers insist they're ill-informed.

It's man versus beast, cowboy against horse – a tradition that goes back to the 1940s in New Zealand. But animal welfare organisations say it's cruel.

"Animals will be poked with electric prods," says Kathleen Lafferty of Direct Animal Action. "They have to wear tight flank straps around their abdomens. The cowboys wear spurs. There are a lot of things that do cause pain and distress."

Direct Animal Action wants to see an end to it.

"We would like, ideally, the Government to put a total nationwide ban on rodeo."

It is planning to make its voice heard in Warkworth, north of Auckland, when the rodeo comes to town on New Year's Day.

At Warkworth in three days' time, the hillside will be packed with thousands of spectators, but some say it's not a sport at all, that it's cruelty for the sake of entertainment.

"We think it is [cruelty]," says Angela Midgen of SPCA Aucland. "It's not what animals would naturally do, to be rope-tied and crushed up in a crate and ridden. And then they buck; it's just not natural behaviour."

The SPCA has collected more than 27,000 signatures on a petition with SAFE and Farmwatch and plan to hand it in to Parliament.

But the Rodeo Cowboy Association is defending its actions, saying it adheres to the Code of Welfare for animals in rodeos and has always put the welfare of its livestock at the forefront of any production. It says the event attracts more people every year.

"It's a great day out. It's a great day for the kids. I'd want to know that there are vets on site, but I'm not completely opposed to it. It's pretty cool actually. It's a good day out – sporting entertainment. Too much PC these days."

Protesters say they don't want to spoil anyone's fun; they just want what's right by the animals.

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