Opinion: The times of rodeo occasions on the Calgary Stampede needs to be numbered

The opening of the Calgary Stampede Rodeo on July 10, 2021.Leah Hennel/The Globe and Mail

Jessica Scott-Reid is a contract journalist and animal advocate based mostly in Winnipeg.

100 years in the past, we didn’t know that non-human animals are sentient and may really feel ache. We all know this in the present day and but right here we’re in 2022, as soon as once more welcoming the Calgary Stampede in July – an occasion identified to trigger ache and struggling to animals, all within the title of leisure.

The stampede has lengthy been promoted as a celebration of historical past, custom and tradition, with its old school rodeo marketed to a contemporary viewers with blinders on.

People who doubtless declare to like animals – or at the very least their very own pets – will nonetheless fortunately pay to observe terrified calves be chased and roped, cheer on confused steers be violently wrestled to the bottom, and really doubtless be an viewers to at the very least one horse dying within the chuckwagon occasion. Such of us are exterior of the 59 per cent of Canadians who oppose the usage of animals in rodeos, in accordance with a 2019 examine performed by Analysis Co.

Greater than 70 horses have died on the Calgary Stampede since 1986, in accordance with the Vancouver Humane Society. Analysis has additionally proven that calves concerned within the brutal roping occasion present seen indicators of tension and worry, in addition to elevated ranges of stress hormones following the occasion.

These findings and issues have all been shared publicly lately by advocacy teams and the media. Supporters of the rodeo can not declare ignorance. We all know these animals undergo. We all know they expertise worry, stress and ache. And we all know the possibility of at the very least one animal dying on the stampede every year is almost absolute.

Animal-advocacy organizations have been demanding for years that the stampede’s rodeo occasions lastly come to an finish, solely to be met with claims from occasion organizers that animal care is a precedence.

In keeping with the Calgary Stampede web site, the occasion meets the requirements of the Alberta Animal Care Act. Whereas the act states that “no individual shall trigger an animal to be in misery,” it additionally consists of an exemption for “misery ensuing from an exercise carried on in accordance with the laws or in accordance with affordable and customarily accepted practices.” It’s in that little loophole the place rodeo lives.

Opposite to well-liked perception, there may be additionally little or no about rodeo occasions that has something to do with Canada or cowboys. Chuckwagon racing is a purely spectator sport that was invented by the stampede’s American founder; it has much more to do with drumming up main sponsorship {dollars} than it does tradition. And it’s definitely no celebration of Alberta’s love of horses.

Fortunately, there may be extra to the Calgary Stampede than merciless animal occasions.

“The stampede has supported the humanities for therefore a few years,” mentioned Jann Arden, an Albertan singer and former parade marshal, in an interview. She goes on to explain the abundance of music, artwork exhibits and monetary assist for youngsters’s music training.

“There are additionally the rides for the youngsters,” she mentioned. “Individuals can simply avoid the rodeo.”

As a matter of economics, persevering with to attend the stampede – however merely avoiding all animal occasions – generally is a highly effective act of animal advocacy.

“Occasions have modified,” Ms. Arden mentioned. “And my days of going to the rodeo are over.”

For anybody else who claims to care about animals, yours needs to be, too.

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