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SPCA Condemns Weak New Rodeo Code


5 December 2003


New Zealand's leading animal welfare organisation is dismayed at serious weaknesses in the new welfare code for rodeo animals, announced today.

The Royal New Zealand SPCA describes the code as simply rubber-stamping the continuance of rodeos without addressing key animal welfare concerns, including practices which result in pain, fear and distress.

"An important opportunity has been missed to ban rodeos entirely or, at the very least, to ban those rodeo events resulting in blatant cruelty. We are dismayed that our submission to NAWAC has been largely ignored," says Peter Blomkamp, Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand SPCA.

NAWAC, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, is the body responsible for recommending the Animal Welfare (Rodeos) Code of Welfare 2004, approved today by Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton.

The SPCA's submission to NAWAC noted that animals used in rodeos are characteristically coerced into becoming aggressive and violent, through the use of electric prods, flank straps, spurs and ropes. Such practices, the SPCA says, result in stress, torment and fear for the animals, and expose them to the likelihood of pain, injury and sometimes death.

"The SPCA believes that all use of animals in rodeos should be banned. The consequences to our economy of ending this form of 'entertainment' would be negligible as only a very small percentage of New Zealanders are involved in rodeo promotions," says Mr Blomkamp. "In our view, rodeos instil values which are directly contrary to the spirit of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and involve blatant displays of humans dominating animals in a cruel, callous and violent way.

"These are precisely the attitudes that thinking New Zealanders should not want to encourage, especially in our children and particularly in view of the extensive body of international research pointing to a link between cruelty to animals and violence towards our fellow humans.

"If NAWAC doesn't have the guts to recommend a total ban on rodeos, it could at least call for an end to events such as calf-roping, steer-wrestling and bareback bronco riding. It's hard to see how these activities can be reconciled with the Animal Welfare Act, which specifically calls for animals to be handled in a way that minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

"Similarly, there can be no excuse for NAWAC's failure to recommend an end to children's rodeo events, such as rooster-catching, greasy pig-catching, sheep-riding and calf-riding. These activities can cause terror and injury to animals while giving children the message that cruelty can be fun," he says.

Among other weaknesses of the new code, Mr Blomkamp cites the absence of a requirement for water to be available at all times to animals in holding pens and the absence of a ban on the use of electric prods.

"We're also deeply concerned at the code's failure to stipulate that a veterinarian should be present throughout the course of a rodeo. The code, as published, allows the veterinarian to be called away from the rodeo to deal with an emergency somewhere else. This is a lower standard than would be acceptable at horse or dog racing events and is simply not good enough.

"In addition to these specific concerns, we fear that NAWAC and Mr Sutton are generally accepting unreasonably low standards for the various animal welfare codes which are gradually being introduced under the Animal Welfare Act.

"This is not the first occasion on which NAWAC has sidelined our recommendations and opted to preserve the status quo when the interests of animals required a bolder approach," says Peter Blomkamp.


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