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Rodeo welfare reforms in New Zealand: Update

Rodeo welfare reforms in New Zealand: Update

February 5th, 2024

A year has now passed since a leaked draft Code of Welfare for Rodeo hit New Zealand headlines, proposing significant changes to the treatment of animals in rodeo events. Despite the urgency of the matter, the draft code is still in limbo, with the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) appearing to be in no rush to release the reform rodeo code for public consultation. 

In July 2022, the New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) and SAFE jointly contested the practices of rodeo in the High Court. During the legal proceedings, it came to light that the issuance of the 2018 rodeo code of welfare had not adhered to due process. This suggested that there were shortcomings or irregularities in how the 2018 rodeo code of welfare was developed and put into effect, and this issue was brought to light during the legal proceedings. Following careful consideration, the court did not make a ruling on the legality of rodeo, and said that the proper place to challenge the matter would be during NAWAC’s public consultation process. 

A year on, the draft code, which included proposed reforms on steer wrestling, flank straps, rope and tie events, breakaway roping, and spurs, has not seen the light of day for public consultation.  

 Most upsettingly, while the draft code languishes, rodeo events have continued, exposing gentle-natured animals to deliberate assault and distress – all in the name of entertainment.  

Once again, the question looms large: when will the rights and welfare of these animals take precedence over a spectacle?  

New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act is explicit in its obligation to ensure animals are treated in a manner that minimises the likelihood of “unreasonable or unnecessary pain and distress”. Yet, the treatment of animals in rodeo events remains fundamentally incompatible with their rights under the law. Until a ban is imposed, animals will continue to suffer, caught in a legal loophole that allows their distress for the sake of a fleeting show.  

For each of us who care about the well-being of our non-human companions, the silence on this issue is deafening. Our ability to influence change through democratic processes is being denied as the draft code gathers dust.  

Police called as protesters and security clash at Canterbury Rodeo

In the meantime, you can join us in urging the Associate Agriculture Minister and NAWAC to take action against rodeo, here: 

A year of waiting is a year too long. As advocates for the animals used in rodeo, it is our responsibility to call for transparency, accountability, and justice. For now, rodeo events may continue, but so will our fight for a world where the rights of animals are not sacrificed in the name of entertainment. 

PS. The journey for justice isn’t over yet! Here’s a reminder of how we got here. Stay tuned for next steps.


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