Buckle up: Rodeo protest season kicks into gear

Animal advocates are pleading with the community not to attend rodeos this summer.

This weekend marks the start of the rodeo season, with events kicking off in Winchester on Saturday and Methven on Sunday.

Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) spokesperson Will Appelbe says last year there were devastating incidents.

"The last season saw four animals die and nothing has really changed. The Labour Party campaigned at the last election to ban some of the worst aspects of rodeo, and they haven't fulfilled that promise."

Appelbe hopes Labour will live up to its pre-election promise soon.

"The Labour Party campaigned to ban the use of calves under 12 months old, flank straps, electric prods and rope-burning; we're 10 months into this Government's 'year of delivery', and they haven't fulfilled that promise."

Appelbe says few Kiwis even like rodeos.

"We're a country of animal lovers. The majority of New Zealanders don't support rodeo - they would like to see a ban. We do really encourage everyone to stay away from rodeo, and for the Government to put their money where their mouth is."

New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association president Lyle Cocks told Newshub on Saturday the industry is keeping an eye on the animals.

"We operate under a very useful code of welfare that's put out by Government and we are working with them now to make changes to make it better."

But he also thinks there's not much that can be done to satisfy the protestors.

"Most of the protests are around the use of animals for anything, it's not just rodeo they protest against racehorses, they protest against farms, farm animals."

Michael Laws, then spokesperson for the Rodeo and Cowboys Association, told Newshub last year many of SAFE's claims are incorrect, and rodeos don't use flank straps around genitals, electric prods and rope-burning, as activists claim.

"You've been lied to by animal activists, their stock in trade."

A number of animals died in incidents at rodeos last season, including a horse at an event in Gisborne and a bull which was euthanised after its leg snapped.

Labour's Meka Whaitiri was looking at introducing tougher animal welfare rules before she was sacked after bullying allegations. Newshub has contacted Damien O'Connor, who picked up the portfolio, for a response to SAFE's claims, as well as the Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Green MP Gareth Hughes has a Member's Bill in the ballot which would ban rodeo.