Friday, February 03, 2006

In Australia too, Activists Push for Rodeo Ban

Animal rights activists push for rodeo ban


The World Today - Thursday, 2 February , 2006 12:48:00

Reporter: Tim Jeanes

KAREN PERCY: Animal rights activists say they're facing increasing intimidation as they try to expose cases of animal cruelty at rodeos.

They're pushing for a nationwide ban on the popular country events, pointing to a string of recent incidents.

But the industry says it adheres to strict animal welfare guidelines and isn't aware of any intimidation.

Tim Jeanes reports.

(Sound of rodeo beginning)

TIM JEANES: As the gate opens for another rodeo competitor, opponents of rodeos are trying to shut the gates on the industry for good.

Among such opponents is Emma Haswell, from Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania, who last Saturday filmed a horse breaking its leg, with the horse having to be shot.

She says the use of clowns to create a diversion from the horse's suffering is indicative of an event that should no longer be allowed.

EMMA HASWELL: The clowns came while the horse was dying in the background behind a screen. Ten or so metres in front of that on the arena they had two clowns undressing each other and rolling around in the mud, and while that horse was dying the crowd was in hysterical laughter.

TIM JEANES: Ms Haswell says there's been a string of deaths and injuries in Australian rodeos in recent months, with what's brought to the public's attention only the tip of the iceberg.

EMMA HASWELL: You know, we've only just started filming Tasmanian rodeos. It's not that these are the first two incidents or three incidents, it's that no one's ever there to film them before. No welfare people have ever been at these events in Tasmania to record them.

TIM JEANES: So, around Australia, how prolific do you think this could be then?

EMMA HASWELL: It's huge. I mean, there are so many animals injured in rodeos. It's just something that the industry doesn't want to admit to.

TIM JEANES: Not so, says Steve Hilton, the General Manager of the Australian Professional Rodeo Association.

He says stock injuries at rodeos are miniscule, and in fact less prevalent than normal stock losses on farms.

STEVE HILTON: People pay up to $10,000 and $7,000 for a really good bucking stock, and one of the arguments is that all these stock are mistreated. Well, anybody that knows anything about livestock at all will tell you that nothing performs at its best unless it's treated well, and you know, like these… so in the interests of stock owners, they've really got to have these stock well looked after, well fed and well maintained.

TIM JEANES: Meanwhile, animal activists say they're facing increasing intimidation when trying to expose animal deaths and injuries.

Wendy Parsons is a South Australian who's a member of Animals Australia. She says her and other colleagues are starting to fear for their safety when filming at rodeos.

WENDY PARSONS: Total intimidation. I'd say probably the last six, seven, maybe even twelve months has been much more difficult to obtain footage because the industry itself is trying to prevent us from filming.

We have people standing in front of us, verbally abusing us. I was verbally abused only last week. It's very, very intimidating.

Just a week ago I had probably six to eight people, I was surrounded by them, verbally abusing me. I feared for my safety. When the security guards left us, I felt very, very nervous indeed.

TIM JEANES: The industry says it's not aware of any intimidation.

On the issue of stopping filming, Steve Hilton says rodeos sometimes contract out exclusive filming rights.

STEVE HILTON: The other thing is like it's not normal practice for any sporting event that people are running around behind the scenes filming, and a part of that is the danger side of it. Like, we actually try and keep the livestock and the public separated.

Obviously everybody knows the public liability side of these things come into it as well, and when you get radicals running around who really don't know anything about stock, who've jumped in the wrong places and been in the wrong places, they're going to get hurt.

TIM JEANES: Meanwhile, supporters of rodeos say opponents are often ill informed.

Justin Jarvis is the State Labor candidate for the South Australian country seat of Stuart.

JUSTIN JARVIS: They're people who don't understand country life, and they don't understand the way that rodeos have evolved as very important community events. They're just people who aren't in touch with people who live outside of the city.

Most of the time the people who are driving this are activists with a particular agenda, and I think it's unfortunate that other people get caught up in it as well.

KAREN PERCY: The State Labor candidate for the South Australian seat of Stuart, Justin Jarvis, ending that report from Tim Jeanes.

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