12 Jan 2019

Second animal death at Gisborne rodeo 'freakish'

6:40 am on 12 January 2019

A second animal death has been covered up at a Gisborne rodeo, activists say.

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Photo: 123rf

But an official said there was no cover-up because nobody asked.

Animal welfare group SAFE said it now knows a horse also died at the 27 December rodeo that sparked protests after a bull was injured and shot.

At the time, the New Zealand Rodeo and Cowboys' Association (NZRCA) publicly discussed the bull's death, and said injuries and fatalities were rare at events. But it did not reveal a horse had died.

Their failure to be open about the second death highlighted a lack of transparency, SAFE head of campaigns Marianne Macdonald said.

"We were really appalled to find out that the rodeo organisers, despite being interviewed many times about the bull who was killed at the Gisborne rodeo, totally covered up the horse that was also killed.

"[We only found out] because somebody came forward from the rodeo community and let us know about this death."

Last year a horse was also killed at a Methven rodeo in November and a bull was killed at a Martinborough rodeo in February, Ms Macdonald said.

However, SAFE believed harm to animals might not always be so obvious.

Ms Macdonald said the events caused distress and fear, and injuries were not always seen externally. It was also unclear how many animals were injured or killed during training.

The group hoped a yet-to-be appointed animal welfare minister would impose stricter controls and more public accountability.

"Unless somebody actually witnesses the death, or somebody brave comes forward like they did to us, we don't know what happens behind the scenes."

Ms Macdonald said SAFE had noted video and photography had been banned or restricted at many rodeo events in the last two years, and believed this was an effort to stop controversial footage becoming public.

When asked about the horse's death, NZRCA president Lyal Cocks confirmed it had died in the stockyards at the Gisborne rodeo.

"After it competed it went out into the yards out the back, and for some inexplicable reason it went into a post and died, it was instantaneous - it was very strange, freakish.

"It was the sort of thing that can happen in any stockyards, any paddock, and any other event throughout New Zealand."

Both deaths at the event were reported to the Ministry for Primary Industries [MPI], he said.

"I'm not required to report to everyone ... so it's not a cover-up, it's not anything like that. It's just that we report to MPI, and if questions are asked about particular things, we'll answer them.

"The NZRCA has understandably become cautious [about] speaking out in an environment of extreme negativity towards rodeos, which appears to be promoted by most media organisations."

The deaths were not attributed to any faults, Mr Cocks said.

"Welfare at this rodeo was very good. The animal welfare is maintained to the standard required by government."

Deaths were very rare but upsetting for those who took part, he said.

"The whole community's saddened by any death of animals, because rodeo people work with animals and love animals."