Local Board hears rodeo animal cruelty claims

Lynn Charlton (right) and Lynley Tulloch, of Anti-Rodeo Action, address the Rodney Local Board

A deputation to last month’s Rodney Local Board meeting urged the board to ban all rodeo events on Council land, on animal welfare grounds.

Lynn Charlton, of Anti-Rodeo Action, told the Board that the group was speaking up for animals terrorised at rodeos, specifically at Warkworth Rodeo.

She said the Warkworth Rodeo Club had failed to comply with the Rodeo Code of Welfare this year and had also failed to do so in 2015 and 2016.

In 2015, Anti-Rodeo Action requested that that the Board make complying with the code a condition for holding future events on Council land.

Ms Charlton said rodeos are a form of travelling circus. While some animals are owned by clubs, many are brought in for rodeos from around the country.

She said in Warkworth, bulls have been brought in from Fielding, steers from Huntly, and horses from elsewhere in the Waikato.

“Travelling long distances on hot summer days causes stress for animals. In addition, electric shocks are used to control animals getting in to and out of trucks and pens. We have filmed handlers lying on top of trucks issuing electric shocks to bulls from above in Warkworth,” she said.

Ms Charlton said rodeo has had its day and has no place in a progressive society.

Among its numerous offences, Ms Charlton drew attention to the throttling of baby calves at the end of a rope, ramming metal spurs into the shoulders of horses, tail pulling to wind up animals, and spurring bulls and horses to drive them wild with fear and pain.

But Gary Jackson, the arena director for Warkworth Rodeo, said Ms Charlton’s claims were nonsense.

He said while the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) had investigated minor breaches of the Rodeo Code of Welfare at different rodeos around the country, they had never upheld any complaint at Warkworth Rodeo.

Moreover, the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association, to which Warkworth Rodeo is affiliated, has even stricter regulations than the Rodeo Code of Welfare.  

“We have the tightest and the best and the strongest animal welfare regulations of any country in the world,” Mr Jackson said.

He said a vet was always in attendance at Warkworth Rodeo events and records going back about 30 years showed no significant harm to participating animals.

Rodney Local Board chair Beth Houlbrooke said every year Warkworth Rodeo sought approval from the Board to stage a rodeo on Council land.

Before granting approval, the Board looked closely to see if any complaints had been upheld by MPI.

She said Board members were not in a position to judge whether rodeos were cruel or not and relied on the information from MPI in making a decision on whether to grant permission.  

The Warkworth Rodeo is held on New Year’s Day at the arena, adjacent to the A&P showgrounds.

As Mahurangi Matters went to press it tried to clarify with MPI whether it had any concerns about Warkworth Rodeo.

MPI failed to respond before deadline, however, Ms Charlton produced letters from MPI that showed Warkworth Rodeo had breached the Rodeo Code of Welfare in 2015 and 2016.

Both letters said the rodeo had been subject to “educational outcomes.”

The 2015 letter said the breaches were relatively minor and an educational outcome was deemed most appropriate.


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