NZ welfare groups take rodeo case to High Court

Two animal advocacy groups say rodeo activities violate New Zealand's Animal Welfare Act 1999, and will be heard in the Wellington High Court this week.
Photo by Joseph Keil

Two animal advocacy groups are taking their case to end the sport of rodeo in New Zealand to the country’s High Court this week.

The New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) and SAFE (Save Animals from Exploitation) argue that rodeo activities violate the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

NZALA and SAFE’s case against the Agriculture Minister and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) will be heard on July 11 and 12 at the Wellington High Court.

“There has been growing criticism of rodeo in public opinion. Two bulls were killed during rodeo events in the 2019/2020 season. A bull was euthanised at the Mid Northern rodeo after an injury during the 2020/2021 season,” SAFE said.

SAFE said it commissioned a Horizon Research opinion poll in June 2020, which found that 51 percent of respondents would support a ban on the use of animals in rodeo in New Zealand. Twenty-five percent were opposed to a ban.

About 35 rodeos take place throughout the country each year, and include calf roping, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, team roping, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.

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

The New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association says rodeos are required to have at least one Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) and a veterinarian experienced in treating horses and cattle in attendance, and they must comply with the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and the Rodeos Code of Welfare 2018.

Since the 2017-18 season, the Board of NZ Rodeo and Cowboys has sanctioned several reforms, which are outlined here.

NZ Rodeo has also pledged its ongoing co-operation with NAWAC and independent animal welfare agencies for the purpose of ensuring the highest professional standards of animal care.

This is the second time the two organisations have filed Court proceedings to challenge aspects of New Zealand’s Codes of Welfare. NZALA and SAFE filed Judicial Review Proceedings in 2019, challenging the continued use of farrowing crates for mother pigs. In a judgment released in November 2020, the High Court ruled that the Minister of Agriculture and NAWAC acted illegally when they failed to phase out farrowing crates.

The NZALA is a coalition of lawyers, law students and law graduates working to improve the welfare and lives of animals through the legal system.

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