Animal rights activists take aim again at Calgary Stampede’s calf roping

The massive Alberta flood may be the latest, greatest challenge faced by the iconic Calgary Stampede, but the event heralded as one of Canada’s largest and best-known tourist draws still has old adversaries to deal with.

The annual campaign against the traditional calf roping event has begun anew, pitting the usual cadre of animal rights activists against a high-testosterone competition that harkens back to Canada's rough riding pioneer days.

The Vancouver Sun published on Tuesday an editorial by Vancouver Humane Society director Peter Fricker, who called calf roping a "sadistic sport" that should be banned in Canada.

[ Related: Stampede says events cancelled or moved because of flooding ]

The column reads:

So, it's indisputable that calf roping inflicts pain and fear on animals. Yet crowds of people pay to see it and CBC Sports puts it on television. Think about it. Watching three-month-old, defenceless animals suffer is a spectator sport in 21st-century Canada.


[S]urely everyone, at least those with an ounce of compassion, can agree that causing an animal to suffer just for the sake of entertainment is morally wrong.

The Vancouver Humane Society is the same group that, last year, launched an advertising campaign that compared calf roping to abusing a baby.

Stampede media relations manager Doug Fraser said in an interview last year that organizers do a great deal to protect the welfare of animals involved in the Stampede, from health and wellness programs to event oversight.

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The Calgary Stampede describes calf roping, or tie-down roping, as a skill-based contest in which a cowboy and his horse work together to catch and secure a loose calf.

“Tie-down roping is the most technical event in rodeo. It requires a unique partnership with a working horse and excellent hand eye coordination on the part of the cowboy,” a summary reads.

“A great run is a well choreographed ballet. Any unnecessary roughness will result in disqualification.”

This year's Stampede has been threatened by the overwhelming flooding that hit Calgary and much of southern Alberta. With the waterlogged Calgary Saddledome still being cleared out, the Canadian Press reports that a number of events are being threatened and may not go forward.

The heavy horse show and penning competition will be moved to other locations. But the calf roping is expected to proceed as usual.

And, as usual, that undoubtedly means protests and rallies will proceed as well.