23 Jan 2017

MPI investigating claims of animal abuse at rodeo

6:46 pm on 23 January 2017

The Ministry for Primary Industries is investigating alleged breaches of the Rodeo Code of Welfare at a Northland rodeo, after footage emerged of calves being electric shocked.

WARNING: Video contains graphic images.

Anti-Rodeo Action's Lynn Charlton filmed the alleged breaches at the Maungatapere Mid Northern Rodeo near Whangarei on 14th and 15th January.

The Rodeo Code of Welfare states: "Electric prodders must not be used on animals other than adult cattle".

The Ministry for Primary Industries said it was developing new regulations that would make it easier to enforce its codes of animal welfare.

The ministry's head of Animal Welfare Compliance, Chris Rodwell, said he couldn't comment on the footage as it was being investigated, but admitted the current codes of welfare were difficult to enforce.

"We are developing some regulations, what you'll find is that there'll be some regulations in development which will allow us to have some extra teeth in terms of the enforcement."

NZ Rodeo Cowboys Association president Marty Deans denies any electric prodders were used on calves at the Mid Northern Rodeo.

He said that while the footage showed a man holding an electric prodder moving his hand towards a calf, the man never used the prodder on a calf.

Other footage includes a calf being violently somersaulted during a roping tournament, a calf limping after being ridden, a horse's mane being yanked to stop it bucking, and a cow crawling on its knees trying to escape being ridden.

Ms Charlton, along with animal welfare organisations including SAFE and the SPCA, is using the footage to renew calls for rodeo to be banned in New Zealand.

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee rejected a 60,000 signature petition asking for a ban last year, saying they were satisfied the Rodeo Code of Welfare was sufficient, and that it was being complied with.

But Ms Charlton disagrees.

"There were quite a few scenes [at the Mid Northern Rodeo] where I thought, 'this animal is going be dead', because of the way they fell or lay," Ms Charlton told Checkpoint.

"There's no doubt whatsoever this is a breach of the Animal Welfare Act, which states that animals must not be subjected to unnecessary pain or unreasonable distress.

"They are subjected to this as any reasonable person can see, and they're subjected to it for entertainment."

SPCA chief scientific officer Arnja Dale said the practise of calf-roping should be banned with New Zealand's rodeo framework.

She told Checkpoint rodeos were a sport with history in America, but they had no purpose in New Zealand and should be banned all together.

Checkpoint showed the footage of the Mid Northern Rodeo to more than two dozen people in Auckland's CBD.

All of them said it was not acceptable, and all but two were supportive of a ban.

"You don't have to be an animal behaviour expert to know that these animals are going to be in great distress and it's not right. If we wouldn't do it to a cat or dog, why should we do it to farmed animals?", one women commented.

With their petition rejected by the government, SAFE is asking people to boycott businesses sponsoring rodeos.

Travel agent chain House of Travel last year forced one of its regional stores to stop sponsoring a rodeo, citing ethical concerns, saying rodeo did not fit within its values.

Checkpoint asked current sponsors of the Mid Northern Rodeo if they thought rodeo fit within their values.

LJ Hooker NZ general manager Keith Niederer said the company had "more important things to worry about".

Cowley's Hire, which has been sponsoring the Mid Northern Rodeo for more than 30 years, said it had "no concerns" about the way animals were treated at rodeos.

The rodeo season ends on 25th March. There are 15 rodeos planned between now and then.

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