17 May 2023

A major rodeo event in the Mid West next month will include cruel calf roping, despite most West Aussies wanting to see it banned.

The Mullewa Muster is expected to attract big crowds for ‘family fun’, but the RSPCA is urging spectators to think twice about attending and to consider just how fun these events are for the animals involved.

RSPCA Australia Senior Scientific Officer and veterinarian Dr Di Evans said all rodeo events posed welfare risks to animals, but calf roping was most concerning, due to its violent nature and the fact very young animals were used.

A massive 61 per cent of people in Perth are concerned about the animal welfare impacts of calf roping, while 55 per cent want the barbaric sport scrapped for good. In regional WA, three in five people support a ban on rodeo calf roping, according to 2023 polling*.

‘Watching a calf as young as four months being lassoed around the neck as they try to flee, then being yanked off their feet and thrown to the ground for the sake of entertainment is unacceptable,’ Dr Evans said.

‘In the thick of the action, it can be easy for spectators to miss signs of fear, pain and stress, including escape attempts, bellowing, mouth gaping, white eye, tongue protrusion and tail swishing.

‘When you know the signs to look for, it becomes abundantly clear these animals are not enjoying themselves. Two studies conducted by the University of Sydney in 2020 and 2022 showed that calves display signs of fear and distress, while desperately trying to flee and/or bellowing.

‘At least the humans participating in these rodeos have a choice; the animals do not.’

Dr Evans said rodeos were promoted as a traditional part of rural life, but the way animals were treated did not reflect modern farming practices.

‘It’s very troubling that rodeos are spruiked as family events.  We should be teaching children respect and compassion for animals, not condoning causing fear and stress for the sake of entertainment,’ she said.

Dr Evans said public concern about the welfare of animals in rodeos was growing.  Independent research by McCrindle last year found 67 per cent of Aussies were concerned or very concerned about the welfare of animals used in rodeos–up from 52 per cent in 2015.

‘The RSPCA wants to see calf roping banned Australia-wide, as it effectively is in South Australia, Victoria and in the ACT where all rodeo events are banned,’ Dr Evans said.

‘People can help by raising awareness of the risks inherent in rodeos, by not attending events in their local community, and by expressing their concerns to those businesses still associated with rodeos.’

*2023 polling was commissioned by the RSPCA and conducted independently among a representative sample of 1500 Australians in February 2023.