No animal deaths in 2016 in Calgary; 8 injuries in 8 days in Cheyenne
One day we rode the mountain crest
and I went east & he went west.
I took to law & wore a star
while he spread terror near and far.
––Lorne Green, “Ringo” (1964)
With two days left to run, at least 10 animals had been injured at the 2016 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, recounted Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi, who has videotaped the mayhem annually since 2005.
Five calves, two steers, and a horse had been carted out of the Cheyenne arena due to injury, Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7. In addition, one calf had walked out despite an apparent broken leg, and a steer had suffered a broken horn.
“According to video evidence, there were 7-8 ‘jerk-downs,’” Hindi said. “A jerk-down is a dangerous form of roping that causes the calf to flip over backward, landing on his back, neck or head. Calves can have their backs, necks and legs broken, or their tracheas crushed,” Hindi explained.
“The ‘jerk-down’ is supposedly banned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association,” Hindi added, but the ban, originally instituted in 1959 as part of an agreement through which the American Humane Association monitored PRCA rodeos for 15 years, is rarely enforced.
“John Wayne wannabees”
“Rodeo thugs claim they are honoring tradition,” fumed Hindi, “and that animal abuse is part of their culture. But ranchers never treated their animals this way. If they had, they would have put themselves out of business. These are just John Wayne wannabees abusing animals on a dirt lot, and there is no culture in that.”
Founded in 1897, Cheyenne Frontier Days claims to be the oldest and biggest rodeo in the world, claiming to attract about 200,000 spectators in 10 days of events held each July.
The Calgary Stampede, also held over 10 days each July, attracts about 1.2 million visitors. The Calgary Stampede originated in 1886 as an annual livestock show. Rodeo was first included in the livestock show in 1908, but did not return to Calgary until 1912, when the Stampede name first was used in an event held separately from the livestock show. The initial Calgary Stampede was not a success, and another rodeo was not held in Calgary until 1919, the real beginning of the Calgary Stampede as it exists today. The then financially failing livestock show merged with the Stampede in 1923.
Both Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Calgary Stampede have long drawn criticism for violent treatment of animals.
“Something Cheyenne should be ashamed of”
Then-nationally syndicated medical columnist William Brody, M.D., for instance, in May 1954 published a letter from a reader asserting that “The commercial cruelty to animals in Frontier Days is something Cheyenne should be ashamed of. “
Brody attributed the cruelty to the lack of a humane society in Cheyenne––but the Cheyenne Humane Society, founded about 20 years later, has been conspicuously reluctant to criticize Frontier Days, which long ago became an entrenched civic institution.
Calgary Humane Society
The Calgary Humane Society officially “opposes the use of animals for any form of entertainment in which they are placed at risk of suffering undue stress, pain, injury or death,” spokesperson Sage Pullen McIntosh told Robson Fletcher of CBC News on the eve of the 2016 Calgary Stampede.
But the Calgary Humane Society, on the record anyhow, has offered little more criticism of the Calgary Stampede over the years than the Cheyenne Humane Society has issued about Frontier Days.
“While other organizations may wish to intervene to change rodeo and the Stampede through protest or other advocacy means,” Pullen McIntosh e-mailed to Fletcher, “CHS has found it can best protect the interests of the animals involved by working with organizations putting on such events, and maintains an open dialogue with the Calgary Stampede Board regarding animal welfare.”
Noted Fletcher, “Humane societies elsewhere have taken a harder line against the Stampede, particularly the Vancouver Humane Society, which has questioned the authenticity of the cowboy heritage of chuckwagon races,” long the most controversial Stampede event, “and describes the rodeo events, in particular the calf roping, as a ‘spectacle of animal abuse.’”
No horses hurt for 1st time since 2003
In 2016, at least, the Calgary Humane Society could claim some success. Observed Emma McIntosh of the Calgary Herald, “New safety measures at the Stampede’s chuckwagon races appear to have paid off, with no horses seriously hurt this year for the first time in more than a decade.”
Said Stampede president Bill Gray, “It seems clear that the new safety measures and real changes implemented this year had a positive impact.”
Explained McIntosh, “The Stampede made two major changes this year: a rebuild of the inside rail and a slight reposition of the barrels. The rail was reinforced to give the horses better footing, and the new barrel position was meant to lessen the chance that wagons would collide.”
Added Fletcher, “The races have also moved to an invitational format.”
“The old method, which we used to employ, was based on qualification of how the drivers did on the [chuckwagon racing] tour,” Calgary Stampede chuckwagon chair Mike Piper said. ” We actually now look, obviously, at their sportsmanship, but their safety record is certainly the number one factor. How they conduct themselves on and off the track is also a major factor in those invites.”
“A steady stream of rain made the track slick and muddy for the better part of the Calgary Stampede,” recalled McIntosh, “and a few horses took scary-looking falls throughout the 10 days. But none were killed or seriously hurt — standing in stark contrast to the four chuckwagon horse fatalities in 2015.
“The last year the Stampede went casualty-free,” McIntosh finished, “appears to have been 2003.”