Advocacy groups in court bid to end rodeo in New Zealand

Animal advocacy groups are seeking a legal ban of the sport of rodeo in New Zealand.
Photo by Len Radin

Two New Zealand animal advocacy groups have filed proceedings against the Government and the country’s National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee over the sport of rodeo.

Proceedings were filed on Monday by the New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) and Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE), asserting that rodeo events are in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

SAFE is eyeing a “complete, legal ban” of the sport. The group’s chief executive, Debra Ashton, said: “We’ve had enough. We’ve tried everything, and now, we’ll see the Government in court”.

Rodeo activities are sanctioned through the Code of Welfare: Rodeos 2018. The 2018 code replaced the 2014 code and is materially identical to it. NZALA has filed judicial review proceedings in the High Court challenging the legality of the 2018 code on both procedural and substantive grounds.

Procedurally, NZALA and SAFE consider that the proper statutory process was not followed in issuing the 2018 code. These procedural errors allegedly include a failure to publicly notify the 2018 code, and as a result, a failure to consult on the 2018 code.

Substantively, NZALA and SAFE consider that the 2018 code permits activities that do not meet the purpose of the Act. The effect of this is that otherwise unlawful (under the Act) activities are treated as ‘lawful’ in the 2018 code, they argue.

“The proceedings seek declarations from the High Court to this effect,” the NZALA said.

The NZALA said more than 30 rodeos take place in New Zealand each year, with events including calf roping, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, team roping, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.

“Most rodeo activities involve conduct that causes animals pain and/or distress,” the NZALA asserts. “Animals used in rodeo can suffer from both physical injuries and psychological stress. Physical injuries can include broken bones from roping or bucking during riding, or bruising and ruptured skin from the use of spurs and ropes.”

In March 2018, NZALA published Catriona McLennan’s 92-page paper The Legal Status of Rodeo in New Zealand, which scrutinised the legality and regulation of rodeo in New Zealand in the context of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

“In recent times, public criticism of rodeos has mounted because of concerns about the pain and distress animals suffer solely for entertainment purposes. States and cities around the world have already banned rodeo,” the NZALA said.

This will be the second judicial review filed by NZALA and SAFE, following the successful High Court decision in The New Zealand Animal Welfare Association v the Attorney-General [2020] NZHC 3009. In that decision, Justice Cull determined that the minimum standards and regulations allowing the use of farrowing crates for mother pigs were unlawful and inconsistent with the Act, and accordingly directed the Government to consider phasing out the use of farrowing crates.

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7 thoughts on “Advocacy groups in court bid to end rodeo in New Zealand

  • July 20, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    Good. Hope they win. There is no place for rodeo in any civilized society. Where else but at a rodeo is the high-speed strangling of baby animals (calf roping) acceptable? Where else but at rodeo are cattle and horses terrified into flinging themselves about in an attempt to remove an attacker from their backs, sometimes breaking their own legs in the process?
    There’s nothing in rodeo that “celebrates the rural lifestyle” unless the rural lifestyle needs prosecuting. It doesn’t. Good farmers never treat their animals in any way similar to what is shown in the rodeo ring.
    Apart from the animal cruelty, the effects of rodeo activities upon their human participants is pretty vile, too. What, for instance, has happened to a person who can cheerfully stick a cattle prod into a bull’s anus to “gee him up” so he’ll buck? How does such a person get about in life? How does he go home to his family? How does he think that’s okay? The adversarial mindset that sees an animal as a dangerous enemy to be overcome is a complete barrier to treating them with care and respect. It has been proven time and time again that there is a strong connection between our treatment of animals and our treatment of people. Then there’s the physical damage. Bull and bronc riders don’t wear hard hats, so most retire from the “sport” while still in their twenties due to brain damage. Then there are the broken bones, the sprains, the bruising.
    And people go, and bring their children, to view all this. To cheer it on. Pain as spectator sport. I hope this court case wins, and that rodeo is banned in New Zealand. It’s time. It’s past time.

  • July 20, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    If this court case goes in favour of the Plaintiffs then Horse Racing, Eventing, Dog Trials, will be next as they would be considered causing stress under these groups interpretations. All codes that have been developed will be deemed unlawful and this would get back to farming and these vegan groups will end animal agriculture in NZ.

    • July 29, 2021 at 2:10 pm

      Reno, I disagree. Horse and dog racing have issues to deal with, but nothing comparable with rodeo, and in the case of horse racing, they are very aware of how thin is the ice their social permission skates on. Eventing is a non-professional horse sport (“professional” eventers make their money by training horses and riders, not at competitions) where the participant animals are essentially pets. While accidents do happen, it is more likely the rider will be injured than the horse. In any of the three Olympic equestrian disciplines, the sheer time, effort and resources put into producing a horse mitigates against cruelty. So does the fact that the horse is a skilled partner of the human athlete, not a panicked victim of aggression.
      To put eventing in the same bracket as rodeo is to proclaim that you know absolutely nothing about the sport.

  • July 21, 2021 at 6:34 am

    Definitely BAN rodeos, worldwide!

  • July 21, 2021 at 7:34 pm

    Excellent. Tormenting animals for “fun” in rodeos should be illegal. Period.

  • July 22, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    Animals should not be injured or killed for entertainment and that is what rodeo is.  It bears no resemblance to ranching.  I grew up on a cattle ranch in North Dakota and spent 8 years as a ranch veterinarian there.  My ranch clients did not ride bulls, speed rope calves or make their expensive horses buck.  Rodeo is not American “tradition”. 

      As a former bareback bronc rider, pathologist and large animal veterinarian, I have  both the  experience and  autopsy  proof that rodeo injures and kills animals. Dr. Robert Bay from Colorado autopsied roping calves and found hemorrhages, torn muscles, torn ligaments, damage to the trachea, damage to the throat and damage to the thyroid. These calves never get a chance to heal before they are used again. Meat inspectors processing rodeo animals found broken bones, ruptured internal organs, massive amounts of blood in the abdomen from ruptured blood vessels and damage to the ligamentum nuchae that holds the neck to the rest of the spinal column. As a  former  criminal lawyer, children that are exposed to and participate in animal abuse often grow up to abuse humans. I have seen children cry at rodeos when the calves are roped and slammed to the ground. It is time for this archaic rodeo  “entertainment”  to end.

  • July 29, 2021 at 2:04 am

    You make an excellent point that it is important for us to choose a qualified animal hospital for our pets.
    My wife and I would like to have our dogs checked. I will look into reliable hospital for our pets.


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