Rodeo protests dividing town and country

Riders are currently saddling up for Monday's 45th Warkworth Rodeo, an event that's set to divide town and country.

A Private Member's Bill in the New Year hopes to ban some of the more harmful treatment of animals that take part in rodeos.

The sport has attracted plenty of controversy, but organisers say it's cleaned up its act in the past 10 years. 

Tom Whitehead from Warkworth Rodeo Club defends the sport, saying the animals are treated well and the event is a fun, family day out.

"It might not be part of the Auckland central culture but it's definitely a part of Warkworth culture," he told Newshub. 

Animal rights groups feel differently. 

Footage from a rodeo in Methven back in October shows baby calves being wrestled to the ground and horses' flanks strapped tight - actions designed to incite and cause distress to the animals, all in the name of entertainment.

Direct Animal Action spokesman Apollo Taito said the public perception has changed.

"More and more people are saying 'let's stop rodeos; it's cruel'," he said. 

Young calves roped and being dragged around by their necks is viewed by some as one of the most cowardly acts, but those in the sport say the calves have a good life.

"They go out for one day a year, for possibly eight seconds - usually shorter - and then they're back to paddocks... they're all looked after really well," Mr Whitehead said. 

Green MP Gareth Hughes wants to eliminate what he says is an outdated sport, which should be confined to the history books.

"I think everyone could agree it's unacceptable to have cows as young as three months tormented in these events," he told Newshub. 

"I'm working on a Private Members Bill to outlaw some of the worst practices - calf roping and flank straps."

Direct Animal Action plans to protest at Monday's event but with hours to go, organisers are getting on with the show.

"It's a recognised sport. We've given people OBEs for being involved in this sport," Mr Whitehead maintained.