Deaths at the Calgary Stampede: Is it time to ban rodeo?

Deaths at the Calgary Stampede: Is it time to ban rodeo?

Another Calgary Stampede, another animal has been killed.

During Wednesday's steer wrestling event, Zane Hankel wrestled down a steer for an impressive 4.4-second time. But when he released the steer's horns, it didn't get up. Stampede officials quickly pulled out a black tarp to close off the scene to the crowd and euthanized the animal. It's neck had been snapped, and it would not survive the injury.

"It was a severe neck injury, basically complete paralysis as well as some systemic system failure," Stampede chief veterinarian Dr. Greg Evans told the Calgary Herald.

Animal rights activists were quick to jump on the news.

"Why should animals suffer and die just to entertain a crowd," Vancouver Humane Society spokesman Peter Fricker said in a press release. "If these events are so hard on animals that it can kill them, it's obvious they are suffering pain and stress."

[ Related: Animal rights activists take aim at Stampede's calf roping events ]

The infamous black tarp that's trucked out whenever an animal is to be put down has become a familiar scene at the Stampede. Just last year, three horses were put down after a horrific chuckwagon accident that was caught on video. In 2010, six horses were put down. And in 2005, 12 horses were killed. Stampede officials say only two steers have died in steer wrestling events in the past decade.

According to veterinarian Renaud Leguillette, 0.05 per cent of rodeo events lead to an animal fatality.

"It is very competitive yes, there are lots of accidents and we should avoid them when we can but we cannot eliminate them," he said, according to the Toronto Star.

But it begs the question — why would even 0.05 per cent of events resulting in death be acceptable? If 0.05 per cent of NHL hockey games resulted in a player's death, over an 82-game season there would be 123 dead hockey players each year.

So in light of the most recent animal death at the Stampede, is it time to ban rodeo?

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