Calf Roping Cruelty

“Recommended Best Practice… Calves should not be used in rodeo events.”

Code of Welfare: Rodeos, 2014

Calf roping or ‘rope and tie’ is generally considered to be one of the cruellest components of a rodeo. Young calves, approximately three months old, are chased at high speed, roped around the neck and thrown to the ground. This is  a horrific experience causing stress, fear, pain and sometimes injury.

Calves are held in a chute where they are often taunted by being prodded and slapped and having their tail twisted. This makes the frightened and bewildered calf want to escape, meaning that when the gate is flung open the calf runs. A rider on horseback then makes chase. For a herd animal, being singled out and pursued is terrifying.

The rider catches the calf by throwing a lariat (rope lasso) around their neck. Calves can reach speeds of up to 35 kilometres per hour and when stopped in mid-flight by the rope they are jerked off their feet, often causing the spine to compress, and slammed to the ground. If they manage to get up, the rider will throw them to the ground again. As the calf lays on the ground, three of their legs are tied together leaving them helpless. Calves can also suffer injuries including severe bruising, spinal damage, and even broken bones or a torn trachea. The rider must complete the capture and restraint within 30 seconds. 

"The timed events cause injury because time is more important than the welfare of the calf."

Peggy Larson, former rodeo rider, vet and farmer.

These calves have little or no commerical value and are destined to be slaughtered. Their fear and pain is of little consequence to rodeo organisers and participants.

A 2016 Queensland University study on calf roping, funded by the Australian Professional Rodeo Association, simulated what these young animals go through in ‘rope and tie’ events. The peer-reviewed study concluded that calf roping causes an ‘acute stress response’.

Calf roping is already banned in a number of states in the United States, Australia, Brazil and Canada; it is banned nationally in Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It is time New Zealand followed their example.

NAWAC, (the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee), has serious concerns regarding calf roping, saying, “Recommended Best Practice… Calves should not be used in rodeo events” in the 2014 Code of Welfare for Rodeos. The code also states that “NAWAC does continue to have reservations about the performance of rodeos, and in particular, the events using younger animals. The committee is aware that rodeo events using calves have been banned in a number of countries due to the perceived physical and psychological stresses that they place on the animals.”  

Until a complete rodeo ban is achieved, at the very least calf roping needs to go.