Animal welfare expert visits NZ to help end rodeo cruelty

The campaign to end rodeo is heating up as more and more people, from animal experts to local concerned people, add their voices to calls for a ban. 

One of these is Dr Peggy Larson who in January and February, visited NZ from her home in the US. Dr Larson has a wealth of relevant experience and knowledge, making her perfectly placed to provide expert opinion on why rodeo must end. As a past rodeo ‘bareback bronc’ rider, she saw rodeo practices for herself from inside the industry. She’s been a veterinarian, prosecutor and farmer, and was instrumental in getting spay/neutering clinics running in the US to help prevent unwanted litters of cats and dogs. Although now officially retired, Dr Larson still works as a vet, collaborating with the police to investigate animal abuse cases.

She told how many years ago, when witnessing autopsies of humans, it dawned on her that the animals’ brains she had observed in the veterinary lab, had the same structures as humans. She switched from seeing animals as something to use and make money from, to realising that they were sentient, “capable of feeling stress, fear – anything that we are able to feel.”

When Dr Larson tried to openly visit a New Zealand rodeo, she was informed by the cowboys that she was banned from all rodeos. While quipping, “I don’t think I’m that threatening, frankly,” she decided to go incognito to witness the treatment of animals for herself. The story was covered by TV’s Seven Sharp. She was also interviewed in-depth on the Kim Hill show on National Radio.

Dr Larson is strongly opposed to all aspects to rodeo, but has particular concern over calf roping, flank straps and the use of spurs.

She said, “I can’t look at a calf roping event without thinking of the science behind the damage that’s being done to that calf’s neck.” She explained how autopsy reports on calves used in calf roping events have revealed that they had sustained serious neck, head and shoulder injury when roped at full speed. This damage occurs because their head and neck are stopped by the rope, but their body keeps going. This results in damage to their carotid arteries, ligaments and trachea, along with bruised cartilage and haemorrhaging. Microscopic evidence of tissue damage exposed the trauma, invisible on a living calf because of its hair-covered hide. Similar injuries were observed by slaughterhouse meat inspectors.

The blunt-force trauma from spurs repeatedly jabbed into the sides of bulls, horses and calves when ridden, is also not visible because of the hair over their bodies.

Dr Larson adds, “Rodeos have nothing to do with good stockmanship or farming practice. Farmers aim to handle their animals in a manner that causes the least amount of stress to the animals, whilst rodeos do the opposite. It is simply animal abuse for entertainment. I urge New Zealand to ban this cruel practice.”


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13 February 2018