Calf-roping event at Agribition has 'no place in civilized society': animal rights activists

While this week's Canadian Western Agribition in Regina drew in crowds to watch traditional rodeo events like calf roping, it also drew protests from animal rights activists.

Regina Pig Save director Joe Kratz said the calf-roping event, otherwise known as the "tie-down event," has no place in a civilized society. 

"The calf comes out of the chute at a fast pace. When that rope comes around his neck, the cowboy, on his horse, stops and that calf is pulled back violently," Kratz told CBC Radio. 

"You can always tell when [the calf] has a major injury because the cowboy won't rope him, he just walks away. This happens all the time."

Kratz said seeing calf roping makes him feel "beyond sad," because he feels it's unnecessary.

Doing the same thing to a dog would likely result in animal cruelty charges, he said, but people haven't yet made the connection between farm animals and animals that are considered pets. 

When asked how he would respond to a common defence of the practice — the argument that the animals are loved and cared for — Kratz said the sole concern of those who own the animals is money. 

Submitted by Regina Pig Save

He said he understands that activities like calf roping are tradition in Saskatchewan, but that doesn't change his belief that what's happening is wrong.

"Because something's a tradition doesn't make it right," Kratz said. 

"Just because something is legal doesn't necessarily make it right. People have to understand that we're evolving as a society and people are standing up and saying this is not right anymore." 

While he said he hasn't had much success in engaging in productive discussions with people about calf roping, he noted the activists have garnered numerous honks from cars passing by their location at the corner of 10th Avenue and Elphinstone Street. 

Rules and regulations are in place: CEO

Agribition CEO Chris Lane said the rodeo has been a part of Agribition for a long time, highlights western culture. The rodeo also represents the highest level of the sport, he said.

Animals used in both the rodeo and calf-roping events are raised specifically to take part in those kinds of events, Lane said, and there's zero tolerance for anything deemed excessive in terms of the treatment of the animals.

Contestants can be punished via fines or disqualification for violating the rules around animal treatment, Lane said.

Specifically, he said there are rules around jerking the animals too hard during roping events. Regulations are also in place around how long the animals can be tied up.

"There's more than one way that these calves get looked after and protected, based on what information around best care is, and rodeo practices," Lane said.

Lane said safety measures are in place to protect the participants of the rodeo — animals and people alike.

"[That includes] everything from following … the rules around the Rodeo Association, and our own ground rules around how we treat our own animals — what's accepted, what's not," Lane said. 

He said all animals are examined by trained staff and veterinarians prior to the events.

When an animal is injured during the rodeo at Agribition, Lane said a response procedure is followed. Trained staff and equipment are "ready to go" in case on an injury to an animal or a person.

Lane said there have been no significant injuries to animals this year.  

Agribition, which began last Monday, wraps up on Saturday.