A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Should Will and Kate Skip the Rodeo?

Royal visit marred by uproar in Calgary

Calgary Stampede: the straps cause the animals great pain

Britain’s new royal couple, Will and Kate, have landed themselves in the middle of a public relations nightmare as they prepare for a visit to Canada. The issue: Should they go to the notorious Calgary Stampede rodeo … or stay away?

Although the Stampede was clearly on the schedule (the trip begins in two weeks’ time), organizers are saying that the whole itinerary is yet to be settled.

One British animal protection group has sent a DVD to the royal couple, with graphic video footage of the suffering of animals – mostly horses and cattle – at rodeos.

“We’ve been working against rodeo for a long time,” said Tony Moore, chairman of Fight Against Animal Cruelty in Europe. “Without cruelty, rodeo couldn’t take place.”

Veterinarian Peggy Larson, who was once a bucking bronco rider, has said that “without torture, there can be no rodeo.”

The reason is that horses and bulls only buck because of tight straps that pinch into their genitals where caustic ointments have first been applied. By the time they are released into the arena they are frantic to rid themselves of the strap. Animals are also tormented with electric prods and tail-twisting. And in the lassoing events, where they’re jerked to the ground while often running at 25 miles an hour or more, they can easily be injured or killed.

The letter to William and Kate says:

“The animals in rodeo are domesticated, tame animals forced to behave in a wild manner by various devices (electro shocker, flank strap, spurs and beating to name just a few). They are terrified and not wild.

“The rodeo industry will use your presence not only as a free advertisement, but as a statement that rodeo is okay. For the sake of the animals and yourselves please don’t attend the Calgary rodeo.”

In Calgary, meanwhile, anger that the royal couple might not attend the Stampede is threatening to upset the whole visit and set off a diplomatic stand-off.

The Calgary Herald has taken the editorial positionthat attendance at the Stampede is entirely benign:

“The Stampede is arguably the best managed rodeo in the world and great lengths have been taken to reduce the risk of injury to animals, particularly in recent years. New regulations this summer include provisions for mandatory rest days for horses, more veterinarian checks and increased track grooming. … The Calgary Humane Society has officers on the grounds throughout the Stampede monitoring and enforcing animal protection legislation. And as a result, the Stampede has made at least 33 amendments to its practices based on consultations with the society in recent years.”

But doesn’t this simply make the point? As a result of the presence of the Calgary Humane Society, no fewer than 33 new regulations have already had to be put in place. And if “great lengths” have to be taken “to reduce the risk of injury to animals” (note the wording here – risks of injury are reduced, not eliminated), does this not speak to something being fundamentally wrong?

Prince William is already involved in sport hunting – which is regularly practiced by the British royal family, and which his mother, Princess Diana, tried to make sure her sons would not be drawn into.

Now would be a good time for the new generation of the royals to step away from sports that are cruel to animals. At a time when royal families are trying to rebrand themselves for a modern world, taking up the cause of those who are most vulnerable and cannot protect themselves, would be a great new royal function.

For example, instead of promoting cruelty to animals, paying a visit to a wildlife refuge or other animal protection group would set an example and honor Canadians who are working together to help the animals who are part of their national heritage.

What do you say? Do you think Will and Kate should skip the Calgary Stampede? Let us know in a comment below or on Facebook.

What you can do: One organization working to bring an end to rodeos is SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness). Be aware that the website has stark footage of animal abuse at rodeos and other events.