Lisa Ryan, Animal Liberation’s Regional Campaigns Manager. Councillors,
I am delighted to have this opportunity to address you about the very important matters outlined in Agenda Items No. 9 and 11 relating to the rodeo petition and rodeo report.
I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the lands on which we live, work and meet, and acknowledge their deep and spiritual connection to lands and waters. I also pay my respects to Indigenous Elders past and present. Aboriginal sovereignty was never ceded and this was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
Animal Liberation is Australia’s longest running animal rights organisation and we are proud to work towards permanently improving the lives of all animals. Our mission is to permanently improve the lives of all animals through education, action, and outreach.
Throughout history mankind has always sought to exploit animals for sport, entertainment and often gambling profits.
Animal Liberation is strongly opposed to rodeos and indeed all activities which seek to exploit animals for human entertainment.
The matters under review include ethical and moral considerations about events which are marketed as spectator sports and entertainment for human enjoyment and commercial profits, not only for those who run the events, but those who participate and even those who lease the lands where such events are held.
I wish to respectfully challenge the ‘thinking’ in this space and request council’s decision makers reflect on these considerations, all of which hold merit, before you individually and collectively formulate your objective and informed views and decisions in the very best interests of your community.
These matters compel us to examine the perceived and real animal cruelty, suffering and exploitation, as well as evolved public expectations about these types of events and practices which we allow to occur on some animal species, but would condemn if practiced on others.
Would council endorse, support or approve an event licence for 5 to 6 years for a rodeo which instead of using cattle, calves and horses, involved working dogs such as the Australian kelpie ?
I believe decision makers would feel very differently if a rodeo involved dogs and puppies forced to ‘perform’ for a paying audience.
We need to differentiate between fact and the fabrication of tradition and culture, which causes pain and suffering to others.
Why do we abhor some practices as cruel and unacceptable while selectively ignoring and condoning these same cruel practices being undertaken on some species of animals.
Time is running out for rodeo events – they are opposed by all animal welfare and protection organisations and increasingly, the broad public.
Because of the animal welfare issues and cruelty, the Protection of Animals Act made traditional rodeos illegal in England, Scotland and Wales. Rodeos are also banned in parts of Europe and the US. Calf roping events are already banned in Victoria, South Australia and the ACT because of the stress caused and risk of serious injury to these vulnerable young animals.
In New Zealand the New Zealand government has been challenged about rodeos in the courts and currently parts of California in the US are also looking to ban these cruel events.
Have we truly evolved as a compassionate society if while we vehemently oppose using a stockwhip, flank strap, spurs or an electric prodder on dogs, we allow such practices on other species and pay to watch such cruelty?
These matters also relate to council’s leadership role and compel decision makers to fully consider animal welfare and wellbeing expectations by those you are elected to represent.
Educated consumers have collectively said loudly they do not support animal cruelty and they expect strong and enforceable animal welfare and protections laws and an end to abhorrent practices that knowingly cause animal suffering, distress, fear and pain.
The animal welfare experts and those with scientific and veterinary qualifications all agree, animals are sentient and rodeos need to be outlawed on animal welfare grounds.
Our animal welfare laws offer minimal protection against cruelty towards animals. Our codes of practice are riddled with exemptions and terms like ‘should’ rather than ‘must’. The rodeo code of practice is particularly lax, outdated and come 2023, will be 35 years old.
Oversight and enforcement is almost not existent because these events are often poorly regulated and frequently occur in remote locations.
Council’s responsibility and accountability must surely extend beyond signing a licence agreement and receipting an annual fee – it should be prioritised towards its community and upholding the state’s animal welfare laws before its obligations to a Rodeo Association.
IN NSW animal welfare is well and truly on the political agenda with a succession of state government inquiries and public feedback all confirming animals matter.
In recent months new laws to prevent the convenience killing of vulnerable, impounded animals has been implemented. In the last week, new laws to curtail puppy factories have passed the Legislative Council.
Currently the NSW parliament is considering the NSW Greens Animal Sentience Bill and a Bill to establish an Independent Office of Animal Welfare & Protection.
Currently, the state's primary animal welfare and protection legislation, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is also being re-written and updated.
In reality rodeos are nothing more than displays of human domination, torment and bullying leading to cruelty to animals by prompting unnatural behaviours when they are physically provoked by the use of such devices as spurs, electric prods and flank straps.
Rodeos do result in painful injuries and sometimes the death of animals so let’s stop pretending they don’t.
Horses and cows are normally calm and docile but they rebel against their treatment. In rodeo activities, frightened animal flails their spine and torso vertically and sideways, jumping and kicking, trying to remove sources of pain and irritation imposed on them by the show organisers.
Calf roping abuses baby cows which are chased at high speed, roped around the neck, dragged to a sudden stop with the rope choking their neck, then thrown to the ground; a horrific experience causing stress, fear, pain and sometimes injury.
It’s not just the rodeo event which contributes to animal suffering, long distance travel between events can also be punishing, with animals often transported over long distances in hot and overcrowded trucks and trailers.
The injuries are not only confined to the rodeos themselves. Practice sessions and rodeo schools can involve, a calf being roped repeatedly, until the calf suffers injuries that require their replacement.
More and more people have become aware of just how cruel these events are for the animals forced to participate. The horses, bulls, steer, and calves suffer broken ribs, backs, and legs, torn tails, punctured lungs, internal organ damage, ripped tendons, torn ligaments, snapped necks, and agonising deaths.
Rodeos not only injure and kill many animals, they also expose children to legally sanctioned animal abuse with children witnessing riders and ropers dominate and injure animals. They see the spurs, the cattle prods and the ropes., and they internalise this as ‘normal’.
Animal suffering and pain stares you in the face – we all know it and sense it profoundly when we witness animal cruelty.
When we see a dog cower and whimper from pain and fear because it has been harmed we instinctively recognise this as animal cruelty. The very same logic and rationale applies to what we witness and experience at a rodeo. Animals are not voiceless, rather we apply selective vision and hearing because to admit we have purchased tickets to watch such cruelty would make most of us very uncomfortable.
We choose to justify our participation in this this deliberate and intentional abuse of animals which by its very nature is violent, simply because it’s ‘entertainment’ and it’s legal. It cannot and should never be justified, condoned, endorsed or approved.
It is clear from council’s public records. the approval of the September 2017 rodeo licence, full transparency was lacking.
Those who endorsed the approval decision did not appear to have access to either the licence conditions, nor details about the additional 12 month holding over period which in fact determined a six not a five year licence. And yet in the very same council meeting report, it stipulates the licence expires on 30 November 2022. This alone should prevent the 2023 event from taking place on 1 January.
That this event has continued for around 50 years without a single reference to animal welfare and protection requirements, is quite frankly, astounding and equally distressing.
This can only be described as seriously flawed decision making over decades – and clearly this must change and change urgently. It would be our strong recommendation that through council’s General Manager, urgent legal advice is sought regarding 1) the scheduled 1 January 2023 event and 2) that this same event could proceed under the current conditions which ignores NSW’s mandatory animal welfare laws.
Public expectations about sentient beings and their welfare and public transparency are very clear. Decision makers must listen and respond accordingly.
The motion put forward for councillors to receive and note the petition will not however in itself prevent animal cruelty, pain and suffering. Accordingly, Animal Liberation is calling for much more and that by taking whatever action is necessary to ensure compliance with the Act calls for a complete ban on such events held on council land or land managed by council.
The only recommendation Animal Liberation supports in part is No 2 and involving public notification and a public exhibition period to harness community and public views about any future rodeo events. We strongly disagree that the proposed 1 January 2023 event can be held under the current conditions because this would exemp council and the Rodeo Association from state based mandatory animal welfare and protections laws. We will also strongly oppose any further 5 to 6 years rodeo licence. Recommendation No 3 ignores NSW’s primary legislation and simply attempts to rubber stamp a code of practice which is seriously outdated and inadequate – some 35 years old come 2023.
Local government councils’ don’t get to pick and choose which animal welfare laws will be adhered to and which we be incorporated into any licence agreements which fundamentally involve the welfare of animals.
I encourage decision makers and those who draft policy positions to consider council’s fundamental leadership role in the community, and more broadly as one of many councils’ across NSW who are listening and responding to the heightened call for stronger animal welfare practices with council managed or council approved and endorsed events held on council land or council controlled land.
There are very clear and distinct choices presented here for council’s decision makers. One is regressive and the other is progressive.
Historically, had bold and progressive decision makers not challenged themselves, others and the status quo, we would still have a legalised human slave trade, and women would not have the right to vote.
History has taught us that just because something is legal, it does not always mean it is ethically or morally right.
Progressive, strong and good leadership intended for the common good requires boldness and a willingness to extend one’s thinking beyond one’s comfort zone.
In 1789, as part of his British human slave trade abolition speech, UK member of parliament, William Wilberforce said: “you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know”.
I ask you to consider these very wise words when formulating your views and making your decisions about the rodeo petition and council’s rodeo report.