17 December 2020

**WARNING: Distressing Images***

RSPCA WA is urging people to reconsider attending rodeo events this summer, labelling the spectacle “outdated and inhumane”.

The RSPCA has been made aware of footage from a recent event south of Perth, showing distressed and fearful animals being used in calf roping, bronco riding, and steer wrestling.

RSPCA Australia Senior Scientific Officer, Dr Di Evans, said subjecting animals to these experiences was not justified. She said advocates of rodeo often relied on the same tired defences, which were simply not backed up by facts.

“The fact is, rodeos do not reflect modern farming practices and community values. Looking at this footage, it’s abundantly clear that these animals are not at all enjoying being part of the spectacle – they are frequently stressed and often injured. There are much better ways to celebrate rural life,” she said.

“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 sport or entertainment.”

Rodeos are held in all states and territories in Australia except for the ACT where they are prohibited. Through body weight limits, calf roping events have been effectively banned in Victoria and South Australia.

A calf is forced to ground during a roping event“While all rodeo events pose significant risks, calf roping raises particularly serious welfare concerns,” Dr Evans said.

“Calves as young as four months are yanked off their feet and forced to the ground, risking damage to their windpipe and neck, bruising, choking, fear and stress.”

Dr Evans said mis-ropings were common, and signs such as “white eye”, bellowing and tongue protrusion depicted in the footage indicated the young animals were experiencing intense fear and/or pain.

“From the perspective of these young animals, they are running for their lives to escape attack by a predator. At least the humans participating in these rodeos have a choice; the animals do not,” she said.

“People can stand up for these animals by helping raise awareness of the risks inherent in rodeo, by not attending events in their local community, and by expressing their concerns to those businesses still associated with rodeos.”


1. Rodeos are not a celebration of farming life

Rodeos hide behind culture and tradition, but the reality is they rely on causing animals fear and distress, which is not reflective of modern farming practices. Bull riding, for example, is not normal practice on farms or stations. In fact, the Australian cattle industry strongly promotes low-stress stock handling, where workers are trained to minimise stress and handle animals calmly with minimum noise and movement. Rodeos are in complete contrast to this.

2. Animals used in rodeos are not trained to understand their roles and they don’t enjoy it

Supporters of rodeo argue that these animals perform because they enjoy it, but based on observed behavior there is very little evidence of this. If bulls and broncos were trained to perform, or were enjoying themselves, there would be no need for riders to repeatedly kick them with metal spurs, or use flank straps around the animals’ sensitive underbelly to elicit repeated bucking. This ‘fight’ reaction is the same reaction horses and cattle have to being attacked by a predator – a situation where they experience fear, stress and panic. Also, you cannot desensitise a calf to being chased and roped, as this event relies on them exhibiting the ‘flight’ response. This is a survival instinct where they are literally running for their lives.

3. Rodeos aren’t required to adhere to welfare codes

The WA code of practice for rodeos is almost 20 years old and completely outdated. On top of this, it is not mandatory – meaning attendance by a veterinarian isn’t mandatory either. The only legislated protection for animals in rodeos in WA is the Animal Welfare Act, which is geared towards preventing cruelty, rather than ensuring good welfare practices. Where rodeos are permitted, the RSPCA advocates for the adoption of compulsory and enforced welfare standards. Attendance by a qualified veterinarian should also be mandatory.

Video and stills courtesy of WA Anti Rodeo.

More information:

What are the animal welfare issues with rodeos? – RSPCA Knowledgebase

What are the animal welfare issues with calf roping in rodeos? – RSPCA Knowledgebase