Rodeo is illegal and the welfare code relating to it is "legally flawed" according to a new report by a group of New Zealand lawyers.
The New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) report says rodeo contravenes the Animal Welfare Act, which protects animals from ill-treatment and requires their needs to be met.
The NZ Rodeo and Cowboys Association said the report is an attempt to "overturn democracy" and "an absurd attempt to exploit a perceived loophole in animal welfare legislation".
The group's president Lyal Cocks said: "Having failed to convince the new government that we are doing anything wrong, illegal or inhumane, these activists now announce their intention to try the back door."
NZALA report author and barrister Catriona Maclennan said: "Rodeo breaches [the Animal Welfare Act] provisions by deliberately placing animals in harm's way for entertainment. Spurs and electric prodders are intentionally used to inflict pain, contrary to the act's ban on the ill-treatment of animals."
She said codes such as the Animal Welfare (Rodeos) Code of Welfare could not legalise actions banned by an act.
NZALA president Saar Cohen-Ronen said: "We wanted to draw attention to the problematic legal status of rodeo. The report shows that activities that are prohibited under the act are rendered permissible under the code. That is not a sustainable legal scenario."
The group argues that many rodeo practices and especially those involving cattle should be considered illegal.
It believes there is an arguable case for the High Court to declare the code relating to welfare to be incompatible with the Animal Welfare Act.
Mr Cocks said he doesn't believe any loophole exists, saying there had been an independent parliamentary select committee inquiry in 2016 and significant overview by the Ministry for Primary Industries since.
"We have had an amazing season of rodeo attended by literally tens of thousands of New Zealanders. The few animal activists who protest have maligned our sport, our administrators and our athletes," Mr Cocks said.