Easy does it, cowboy

At the Calgary Stampede, the two-step between contemporary animal-welfare sensitivities and rodeo tradition continues.

Isaac Brekken/AP

At the Calgary Stampede, the two-step between contemporary animal-welfare sensitivities and hootin’-and-hollerin’ rodeo tradition continues in 2010. The Stampede is adopting a new animal-safety rule for this year’s competition in steer wrestling—the timed event in which a cowboy chases a castrated young bull double his own mass on horseback, leans over to get leverage on its horns, slips out of the saddle, and, in a struggle that can vary in elegance from ballet to barroom brawl, twists the beast’s neck until it topples on its side.

Last year, a steer had to be euthanized after what competitors refer to as a “dog fall.” The steer collapsed with its legs under it, instead of out to the side nearest the cowboy, and the animal’s neck was apparently broken as the wrestler continued to apply rotational force to its head in an effort to force submission. Dog falls are rare, but that there’s a name for them is a hint that they (and their consequences for the steer) are not exactly unheard of.

The Stampede, whose size and antiquity makes it a model for other rodeos, will become the first to introduce a rule awarding athletes an automatic “no time” in the event of any dog fall.

The Calgary Humane Society, which monitors and advises on animal welfare at the Stampede, favours the abolition of steer wrestling but lauded the new safety move, in which judges will be asked to signal the cowboy verbally to release the animal. “I think you and I at more risk crossing a street than a steer is being bulldogged,” says Stampede chairman David Chalack, a veterinarian, “but no one has more respect for animal life than a livestock man. Whenever we lose one we look seriously at what we can do to reduce the risk.”




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Easy does it, cowboy

  1. "…but no one has more respect for animal life than a livestock man. Whenever we lose one we look seriously at what we can do to reduce the risk.”

    "Livestock man" being a man who raises animals so that they can be killed and eaten. Of course one would rather reduce the risk – one wants them to be killed in a controlled setting so that one gets the full sale price for the meat. But that doesn't amount to the same thing as "respect for animal life".

    • You are a vegan are you Gaunilon?

      • Nope, I'm an enthusiastic carnivore. A meatophile, actually. Why?

  2. Oh brother..

  3. Yep – we sure had lots of chuckwagon races on our ranch. Dad loved it when we destroyed the 'kitchen' and maimed his horses. And he payed the hands extra if they broke a calf's neck. Heck, it was only our livelihood. NOT! These guys are no more cowhands than Daffy Duck. It used to be just drunks and idiots – now it's just greedy immature idiots. And all encouraged by the disgusting Chamber of Commerce who would sell their soul for a quck buck (no pun intended).

    • I have to agree. My experience on the farm was that whenever we tried anything remotely close to these kinds of stunts (a) someone got injured and (b) something expensive got damaged, usually followed by (c) someone got either seriously chewed out or fired.

      In retrospect I don't understand how none of us ever got killed. There were sure plenty of close calls.

  4. The Calgary stampede is silly, outdated, nonsensical, and cruel. It's time to get over the cowboy and Indian stuff and come up with something better.

    • I don't exactly disagree except with the tendency to throw babies out with bathwater.
      Look at Edmonton for an example of what happens when overeager people want to forget their roots – we gave up our "Klondike" identity and now we have a celebration called capital ex…..celebrating what? I am not yet sure. I only know that I have stopped going since it is now the trashiest fair you can possibly imagine. The thing saving it before was it's links to our city's past. The same would happen in Calgary's case. The problem is, it is harder than you may think to "think of something better" than your established identity – and trying leads to an inferiority complex.
      My vote is to change rodeo events that are causing the most injury/death of people and animals. Rodeo may not resemble farm life, but farm life (and Indians) are certainly part of Alberta's past.

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