The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo in Canada that is hailed by its fans and organizers as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” This year the festival is a century old, and in keeping with its tradition has taunted and tortured animals for the sake of entertainment and amusement.
Three horses died at this year’s rodeo during the event’s famous chuckwagon race. The race, which involves 36 drivers and 216 horses competing for the grand prize of $1.15 million, has lead to the death and injury of multiple horses in the past. In 1986 at least seven horses died as a result of the event, five of which had to be euthanized following a gruesome collision on the race track. The incident prompted organizers of the Calgary Stampede to change the rules prior the 1987 rodeo. The 1987 reforms included a change in the structure of the wagons as well as mandatory drug and alcohol testing of drivers prior to the race.
In 2005 nine horses infamously plunged to their death over a bridge after becoming startled during a 200 horse and 128 mile march from the Stampede ranch to the Calgary Stampede sight. In 2010 six horses died during Stampede events; two died of heart attacks, one broke its back in the saddle bronc event, one was injured during the chuckwagon race, and another horse’s death could not be explained. According to the VancouverHumaneSociety more than 50 horses have died in chuckwagon races since 1986.
The chuckwagon race is not the only controversial event at the Calgary Stampede nor are horses the only animals to suffer at the annual rodeo. The Stampede’s calf-roping event has also drawn criticism from animal welfare groups including the Vancouver Humane Society. Peter Ficker, projects and communications director at VHS described the organization’s concerns regarding the event to CTV news, “We think it’s self-evident that if you chase an animal across an arena, rope it to a sudden halt at speeds up to 27 miles an hour and pick it up and throw it to the ground, it’s going to experience fear, pain, and stress. We think that’s completely immoral and inappropriate for the 21st century.” VHS has also published an ad in a Calgary newspaper condemning rodeo calf-roping. The ad features the image of a human baby beside a young calf with text reading “Just three months old. Would you abuse a baby to entertain a crowd?”
The calf-roping event involves the goading and prodding of a calf while it is in a cage in order to entice to run out when a gate is opened. The Calf is then chased and mounted by a rider. The event is timed, which leads riders to rush and harshly mishandle the animals. In the process the calf experiences neck injuries and atrocious amounts of fear and distress.
The Calgary Stampede is described as “the world’s richest tournament-style rodeo, featuring over $2 million in prize money.” It is also claimed to have consulted with the Calgary Humane Society and the Alberta SPCA to insure the welfare of over 7,500 animals involved in the show. In spite of such gestures and the rule changes of 1987 and 2011, animals have continued to die and be injured in the interest of entertainment and profit at the Calgary Stampede’s rodeo events. The century old tradition at Calgary has remained visibly and distinctly cruel and inhumane.