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  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.