Multiple rodeo events, practices could be banned under leaked animal welfare draft code

Newshub has obtained a confidential report which shows Government-funded animal welfare experts are proposing to ban multiple events and practices in the sport of rodeo. 

The report is a draft welfare code for the sport written by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC). 

Dr Helen Beattie, the managing director of Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa, said this is "fairly significant".

"There are some really big changes that would certainly improve the welfare of the animals in the rodeos."

The report from NAWAC proposes banning: 

  • steer wrestling
  • rope and tie events
  • breakaway roping 
  • using spurs
  • flank strapping.

A ban on flank straps - a rope tightened around the underbelly - would be significant. 

"Horses and actually bulls find that quite uncomfortable and it encourages them to buck," said Dr Beattie.

SAFE's Debra Ashton said if accepted, the proposal could have a dramatic effect. 

"We could definitely see the end to rodeo."

The draft code recommends an alternative to other events like saddle and bareback riding, stating "mechanical horses" could be used instead of real ones. 

Multiple rodeo events, practices could be banned under leaked animal welfare draft code
Photo credit: Getty Images

President of the New Zealand Cowboys Association Lyall Cox confirmed he had a copy of the draft report. However, he couldn't comment, saying he wasn't allowed to. 

He said not to get too carried away as the proposal was in the "very early stages" and still has to go out for public consultation. 

It's also important to note that while these events may appear brutal, the old rodeo code allowed it. That's despite the Animal Welfare Act stating that animals must be handled in a manner that "minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress".

"I think we are at that tipping point. I think we're at that point where we have that evidence and we know there's pain or distress involved," said Dr Kat Littlewood, Massey University animal welfare lecturer and veterinarian.

An animal showing the whites of its eyes is one indicator of distress. The question then becomes, is the distress caused unreasonable?

"That's the really tricky point. We need to come to that point in New Zealand citizens' consciousness of whether it is reasonable or necessary to us as New Zealanders," Dr Littlewood added.

The new draft welfare code suggests the answer to that question is a firm no.