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Too soon to say that Stampede chuckwagon race is safer


Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

VHS and animal advocates across Canada are relieved and pleased that no animal deaths were reported at this year’s Calgary Stampede.

The Stampede says that safety measures it implemented for its chuckwagon race have had an impact.  We hope that is the case, but in fact it’s too soon to say.

There have been three years since 1986 in which there were no animal deaths at the Stampede (1993, 1998, 2003) yet animals continued to die in the intervening years.  Only when a sustained pattern is established, with consecutive years free of animal deaths, will it be clear that the safety improvements have worked.  (It should also be noted that there was a near-disaster in this year’s race when a chuckwagon flipped over, tossing the driver to the ground.)

Agrifair RodeoIt’s also important to note that the safety measures the Stampede has introduced this year, and in previous years, have only come about because of the attention that VHS has drawn to the chuckwagon race and rodeo events.

The resulting media and public pressure have forced the Stampede to take action, although they are unlikely to admit that is the case.

VHS’s supporters and animal advocates who have spoken out across the country should be proud that they have helped hold the Calgary Stampede’s management accountable for the safety of the animals it uses.

But no one should forget that, despite the fact no animals died this year, many animals continue to suffer in the rodeo events.  VHS’s focus is, and always has been, on cruel events such as calf-roping and steer-wrestling – which we have asked the Stampede to ban.

calf roping040522Rodeo082cropresizeRodeo animals are subjected to fear, pain and stress for the sake of entertainment.  That is unethical and unacceptable. Three-month-old calves continue to be chased, roped, tied up and thrown to the ground.  Steers continue to have their necks twisted until they fall to the ground.  Bulls and horses continue to have bucking straps tightened around their hindquarters to make them buck.  All this to amuse a crowd.

Until animal suffering is eliminated from the Stampede and other rodeos, VHS will continue to oppose these events.  We will continue to draw public attention to the plight of rodeo animals and we will always speak out on their behalf.

It is only public pressure that will force rodeos to take animal welfare seriously. Our supporters have been instrumental in creating that pressure and we thank all of you for standing up for rodeo animals.  You are making a difference.





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CBC used false information to defend Calgary Stampede

Calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur


The CBC has been using false information in its responses to concerns about animal welfare at the Calgary Stampede and the CBC’s coverage of the Stampede’s rodeo and chuckwagon races.

In emails to members of the public, the CBC falsely stated that the Alberta SPCA works with the Calgary Stampede and is on-site monitoring events.  The Alberta SPCA has denied that this is the case.

People who have emailed the CBC to complain about its Stampede rodeo broadcasts have been receiving an email response from CBC which states that:

“…Stampede organizers are committed to providing the highest standard of animal care and safeguarding animal welfare. To that end, the organization works with the Calgary Humane Society and the Alberta SPCA. Both groups are on-site monitoring events, and all competing animals are under constant veterinary care and attention throughout the Stampede.”

But when one complainant checked with the Alberta SPCA to see if this was true, she received a reply from the society’s communications manager stating:

“Thank you for contacting me about this email. I will be contacting the CBC to correct its public messages, because the Alberta SPCA doesn’t “work with” the Stampede, and we don’t send officers to monitor Stampede events…”

The complainant’s email from the CBC can be seen here and the email from the Alberta SPCA here.


Yesterday, the Alberta SPCA tweeted a statement confirming that it does not work with the Stampede or monitor rodeo events:

Capture albera spca

The CBC has tweeted an apology saying “it wasn’t our place to speak for the Alberta SPCA or Calgary Stampede.” But the tweet did not address why the CBC was distributing misinformation about the Alberta SPCA’s animal welfare role at the Stampede.

It is not known how many complainants received CBC emails containing the false information.

VHS has an online petition calling on the CBC to stop broadcasting rodeo cruelty at the Stampede.  Also see our related article in the Huffington Post.








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Why is animal lover Jann Arden promoting the Calgary Stampede?

Bucking horse at Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur
Bucking horse at Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

Let Jann Arden know that rodeo is cruel – see actions below.

Singer Jann Arden, long known as an animal lover, has been named as a joint-parade marshall for the Calgary Stampede parade, the event that kicks off the ten-day rodeo, fair and chuckwagon races.

The announcement is a surprise, given Arden’s previously stated opposition to the chuckwagon races, shown in this tweet from 2013:

J Arden tweet against chuckwagon race

Presumably, she is aware of the 65 horses that have died in the Stampede’s chuckwagon races since 1986? That includes 11 dead horses since the Stampede’s much-publicised new “safety measures” were implemented in 2011.

Arden’s decision is also surprising and disappointing given her support for animal causes, including opposition to the Alberta government’s cull of wild horses. Perhaps she isn’t aware that the Calgary Stampede also culls unwanted horses, as revealed by media in 2012.  As CTV News reported at the time, “For the first time, the Calgary Stampede is admitting that horses that don’t make the cut to compete in the famous rodeo are sent to an Alberta slaughterhouse for meat.”

In 2014, Arden described her opposition to the Alberta horse cull and her feelings about horses, stating:  “They just need to be treated with respect. I know there needs to be some sensibility, but why does the fucking solution have to always be killing something?”  Yet killing is the Stampede’s solution to unwanted bucking horses. Isn’t there a double-standard here?

Perhaps Arden is not aware of Stampede’s horse culling policy but is she also unaware of what happens to other rodeo animals?

DSC_0021Does she know that steers died in the Stampede rodeo’s steer-wrestling event in 2014 and 2013?

Steer-wrestling involves riders jumping onto steers and twisting their necks until they fall to the ground.  Both steers had to be euthanized because of neck injuries.

Steer-wrestling has nothing to do with real ranch work. It was invented for rodeo in the 1930s.  It’s just entertainment.

Perhaps Arden is unaware of the suffering of other rodeo animals such as the three-month-old calves that are chased, roped, thrown to the ground and tied up. Or the steers that are roped by the horns and hind legs and stretched off their feet. Or the bulls and bucking horses that are tormented into bucking by the flank strap tightened around their hindquarters.  And all these animals suffer for the mere amusement of a crowd.

Ad calfDoes Arden care that virtually all animal welfare agencies around the world are opposed to rodeos – organizations like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the national SPCAs of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK.

And does she care that most of her fellow Canadians are opposed to rodeo, with a recent poll showing that only three-in-ten Canadians are in favour of using animals in rodeos?

Let Jann Arden know that rodeo is cruel

If you think Jann Arden needs to rethink her support of the Calgary Stampede, please let her know.

Below are some actions you can take to send her a message.

You can tweet one of the messages below by clicking on it. (You will need to be logged in to Twitter.):

Tweet: .@jannarden Please don’t support the Calgary Stampede rodeo & chucks. The Stampede culls unwanted bucking horses. Rodeo animals suffer!

Tweet: .@jannarden Surprised you are supporting the Calgary Stampede, which is known for animal cruelty. Please reconsider!

Tweet: .@jannarden As an animal lover aren’t you concerned about the treatment of horses and rodeo animals at Stampede? 65 dead horses since 1986!

Or simply compose your own tweet to her at @jannarden

You can politely comment on Jann Arden’s Facebook page.

Every time you take a stand for the animals it makes a difference.



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CBC to broadcast rodeo cruelty again

Calf roping 05

CBC Sports is once again planning to broadcast the rodeo and chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede.

CBC continues to ignore the fact that a majority of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeos, as shown in recent polls.  Our national public broadcaster is supposed to reflect Canadian values.  Instead, it persists in broadcasting events that subject animals to fear, pain, stress and the undue risk of injury and death – all for the sake of entertainment.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign our petition.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur


animal welfare compassion cruelty News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Why is the UBC alumni association promoting the Calgary Stampede’s cruel rodeo events?



Calf-roping at the Calgary Stampede. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur


It’s surprising and disappointing to learn that the University of British Columbia’s alumni association, Alumni UBC, is offering a trip to the Calgary Stampede rodeo to its members. It’s disappointing for obvious reasons – animals shouldn’t suffer for the sake of entertainment – but surprising because universities and their wider communities are often the agents of progressive social change.

calf roping040522Rodeo082cropresize

A number of UBC’s alumni who are associated with VHS (directors, former directors, staff) signed a letter to the association last year, urging an end to the promotion, but it’s being offered again this year.

Presumably, Alumni UBC sees nothing wrong with tormenting animals.  Perhaps they find the photos on this page perfectly acceptable.  Most likely, they just see the Stampede as a tradition and see no reason to challenge it.

It’s a shame that when this issue was brought to the association’s attention, no one there had the intellectual curiosity to ask some questions about the ethics of rodeo.

Questions like this: When does an accepted tradition become unethical?

Sometimes you can put a date on it. Dog fighting, bear baiting, and bull baiting were outlawed in England by the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835. But that doesn’t tell us when the critical mass was reached that allowed that change to take place. When did watching animals tear each other apart go from crowd-pleasing fun to socially unacceptable?

It’s even more difficult to determine when we’re approaching that critical mass on an issue in our own time. But sometimes there are clear signs.

VHS has been campaigning against cruelty to rodeo animals for a long time.  It’s still popular in a number of Canadian towns and, of course, at the Stampede. Nevertheless, cracks are appearing in public support for rodeo.

Calf roper at 2006 Russian River Rodeo, Duncans Mills, California

The most obvious indicators are polls showing most Canadians don’t support rodeos.  A December 2015 survey by polling company Insights West found that 63 per cent of Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeos (66% in BC). Does Alumni UBC care that they are promoting something most Canadians think is wrong?

But polls are not the whole story. The cancellation of two professional rodeos in B.C. in the last two years (and half the events at Surrey’s Cloverdale Rodeo in 2007) signal a real lack of public support for rodeo on the West Coast. It’s no wonder the City of Vancouver banned rodeos in 2006.

Last year, the Vancouver Sun became the first daily newspaper in Canada to take an official editorial stance opposing rodeo.

In the same month, six other independent opinion editorials questioned the ethics of rodeo, including a piece by a member of the Calgary Herald’s editorial board, who wrote: “…the bottom line is these animals are still being used for sheer entertainment in events that can cause them traumatic injuries and death — and it is unnecessary for them to be subjected to this. Are we humans so hard up for entertainment that we must amuse ourselves by watching events that can cause animals to suffer and die?”

Most mainstream animal welfare organizations are opposed to rodeos, including our own BC SPCA, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the national SPCAs of the United States, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

These are the institutions we entrust with the protection of animals and they think rodeo is inhumane. So do most British Columbians. So do most Canadians. So does the City of Vancouver. But not, apparently, Alumni UBC.

Back in 1835, there were few institutions to fight for the welfare of animals. But the compassion of enlightened Christian reformers brought about the critical mass necessary for profound change.

Today, our animal welfare organizations have made the case against rodeo. Now we need people of conscience, community leaders, educational institutions and civic organizations to recognize that it’s wrong to make animals suffer for the sake of human amusement.  Shouldn’t the alumni association of one Canada’s best universities be among them?

Please send a polite email to Alumni UBC asking them to stop promoting the Calgary Stampede rodeo.

More about rodeo here.


Ad calf
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur
Calf roping Cal Stamp J Mc
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

Calf being viciously roped at Calgary Stampede


Wild cow milkingRodeo2


Bareback Riding

Calf face crop Rodeo-99


073115 - Abbotsford, BC Chung Chow photo 2015 Agrifair Rodeo in Abbotsford. Bronco riding Bronco refused to get up until motivated by the cowboy behind the fence.

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Poll: Most Canadians oppose rodeo

Calf roper at 2006 Russian River Rodeo, Duncans Mills, California

So why does CBC keep broadcasting it?

VHS has long criticized CBC Sports for broadcasting the Calgary Stampede rodeo.  The CBC has refused to end its coverage despite the clear evidence that animals suffer in rodeos.  They’ve told us that the Stampede is “a longstanding Canadian tradition and is popular with millions of Canadians across this country.”

Really? The facts show that when you ask Canadians across this country how they feel about rodeo, most of them are opposed to it.

A new national public opinion survey on animal welfare issues shows only three in ten (31%) Canadians are in favour of using animals in rodeos.  The survey, by polling company Insights West, found that a solid majority of Canadians (63%) are opposed to rodeos and that Alberta is the only province with a majority (57%) in favour of rodeo.

calf ropingcropVHS has relayed the results of the poll to management at CBC Sports and is awaiting a response. During the 2015 Calgary Stampede, VHS launched a petition calling on CBC to end its broadcast of the Stampede rodeo.  If you haven’t signed the petition, please do. More than 11,000 people already have.

Let CBC Sports know that you are among millions of Canadians opposed to rodeo – and you are in the majority. Remind them that this is the 21st century and animal abuse has no place in modern Canada. Tell them that causing animals to suffer for the sake of entertainment is immoral.  Tell them to stop putting cruelty on our television screens and calling it a sport.

Please support our continuing campaign against rodeo cruelty. We convinced the City of Vancouver to ban rodeo and we’ve won victories against the Cloverdale Rodeo in Surrey and the Luxton Rodeo on Vancouver Island. Your donation will help us win more!

More information:

Rodeo cruelty
The Calgary Stampede

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Poll shows BC is turning against rodeo

073115 - Abbotsford, BC Chung Chow photo 2015 Agrifair Rodeo in Abbotsford. Calf roping. Red shirts were responsible for releasing the tied down calves.

We’re changing hearts and minds in the battle against rodeo cruelty in B.C.

A new public opinion survey by polling company Insights West shows that 62% of British Columbians are opposed to using animals in rodeos.  That’s up six percentage points from a 2013 Insights West poll on the same issue which showed 56% opposed.

The new poll also found that only 32% of B.C. residents are in favour of using animals in rodeos, down from 38% in 2013. Clearly, public opinion is moving against rodeo.

In 2005, an Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by VHS showed that a majority (61%) of people in B.C. supported rodeos and 32% were opposed.  The times they are a-changin’!

VHS has been campaigning against rodeo cruelty for many years, helping to end calf-roping, steer-wrestling and team-roping at the Cloverdale Rodeo, securing a ban on rodeos in the City of Vancouver and partnering with Victoria Citizens Against Rodeo Events to put an end to the Luxton Rodeo on Vancouver Island.

The new poll also showed that even in Alberta, home of the Calgary Stampede and the heartland of rodeo, only 55% of residents are in favour of using animals in rodeos. A strong minority, 39%, are opposed. Our campaign against animal cruelty at the Stampede is having an impact!

The poll also showed that large majorities in B.C. are opposed to hunting animals for sport (91%) and killing animals for their fur (81%).

VHS has worked hard to expose inhumane rodeo events in the media, gaining substantial coverage every year.  This year, the Vancouver Sun became the first newspaper in Canada to take an editorial position against rodeo, stating that:

“The Vancouver Humane Society for years has been leading the charge against rodeo events such as calf roping, steer wrestling and chuckwagon racing, based on a premise that these activities subject animals to fear, pain, stress and the risk of injury or death, for no greater purpose than the entertainment of spectators.”

We’re going to continue that charge and with your support we know we can win. As these polls show, people are waking up to the cruelty involved in rodeo and they want it to end.

073115 - Abbotsford, BC Chung Chow photo 2015 Agrifair Rodeo in Abbotsford. Bronco riding Bronco refused to get up until motivated by the cowboy behind the fence.


animal welfare News/Blog Promoted rodeo

Calgary Stampede under fire for purchasing favourable “journalism”

Screenshot Canadaland

Canadaland reports that in 2011, the Calgary Stampede commissioned a piece to run in prestigious magazine Canadian Geographic. Journalist Curtis Gillespie thoroughly investigated, and ultimately wrote a piece entitled “Rodeo under scrutiny: The debate over animal care at the Calgary Stampede.”


Among other things, the balanced piece explained that horses were bred specifically to buck; horses who didn’t buck wildly enough were slaughtered. Gillespie’s editor called the piece “brilliant” and a “magnum opus.”


However, the publisher decided to pull the story at the last minute and instead ran a piece by someone who had previously published a book called “Celebrating the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.”


Canadian Geographic ran the Stampede-friendly piece, “Rodeo renewal: How animal-care practices are changing perceptions of the century-old Stampede.” It was not identified as sponsored content.


In spite of its unethical advertising practices disguised as journalism, the Stampede’s attempts to create the illusion that rodeo is positive are failing. Public opinion across Canada is turning firmly against this barbaric spectacle of violence against animals.

Fortunately, the truth about the Stampede sending horses to slaughter did come out in 2012.

Please visit our rodeo campaign page to learn more about this issue and what you can do to help.

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Is the tide turning against rodeo in Canada?

the chucks

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur



There are encouraging signs that attitudes toward rodeo and chuckwagon races in Canada may be changing, if independent opinion in mainstream media is anything to go by.

A recent editorial in the Vancouver Sun said that it was “hard to argue” with the description of the Calgary Stampede as “a spectacle of animal abuse.”

In the same week, a column in the Ottawa Citizen described the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon race as a “brutal mix of human domination over an animal running at breakneck speed in confined quarters” and asked: “Would we miss it if it disappeared?”

Calf roper at 2006 Russian River Rodeo, Duncans Mills, California

Another column in the Calgary Herald, authored by a member of the Herald’s editorial board stated: “…the bottom line is these animals are still being used for sheer entertainment in events that can cause them traumatic injuries and death — and it is unnecessary for them to be subjected to this. Are we humans so hard up for entertainment that we must amuse ourselves by watching events that can cause animals to suffer and die?”

Elsewhere on the prairies, an editorial in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald criticized the Calgary Stampede, stating: “Shutting down the rodeo portion of the Stampede deserves serious consideration.”

Meanwhile, the BBC drew international attention to the deaths of chuckwagon horses at the Stampede with a lengthy analysis titled “Why horses die on the half-mile of hell”.

Update: Yet another opinion piece (in Metro News Canada) critical of the chuckwagon race has been published.

Update: An article in the Ottawa Citizen describes watching the CBC coverage of the Calgary Stampede, stating:”…it was impossible not to feel empathy for the poor animals, so clearly unwilling participants in this painful and terrifying circus. In the name of tradition, the CBC broadcast an ugly and cruel spectacle, one that felt like it took place in a dark, shameful past that the public no longer wanted to acknowledge, or had an appetite for.”

Aside from media comment, it should be remembered that virtually all mainstream animal welfare agencies oppose rodeo.

A 2013 public opinion poll showed that the majority of B.C. residents are opposed to rodeo.  Maybe that sentiment is beginning to spread across the country. Let’s hope so.

Media Release

VHS says public must urge halt to chuckwagonrace

Fourth horse dies at Calgary Stampede

VANCOUVER, July 13, 2015 /CNW/ – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling on the Canadian public to express its outrage at the death of four horses in the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races, following the death of yet another horse in the event on Sunday.

“The Stampede has made endless excuses about the continued loss of chuckwagon horses and has failed to stop these deaths,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker.

“The race is fundamentally unsafe and horses just keep dying,” said Fricker. “People need to let the Stampede know that this is unacceptable.”

VHS has repeatedly called on the Stampede to suspend the race and establish an independent panel of experts to determine if anything can be done to make the race safer.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 people have signed a VHS online petition calling for CBC Sports to stop television coverage of the Calgary Stampede rodeo:

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society