Protestors lined the gates of the Wānaka Rodeo on Thursday to voice opposition to acts of animal cruelty. At 10:30am there were about 10 protestors, who had come prepared with chants and signs such as “there’s no excuse for animal abuse” and the less subtle “ban rodeo.” The protests have been ongoing for a few years despite election promises by Labour to ban the use of calves under 12 months old, electric prods, flank straps and rope-burning. Those promises remain unfulfilled as the Minister responsible for animal welfare, Meka Whaitiri, was sacked in 2018 and never replaced. Her portfolio was instead handed to Minister for Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, who is famously supportive of rodeo practices.
Kat Gollop, president of the Queenstown Vegan Society and spokesperson for the protestors, told the Wānaka Sun: “We’re here today to again remind the government and tell them that we’re not just looking for a ban on those elements, we’re looking for an overall ban. It’s outdated, it’s archaic, it’s cruel and there’s no need for this in New Zealand society.”
The group has spent the last couple of months preparing for the protest via social media, and despite the small turnout remain proud to take a stand on an issue close to their hearts.
Lyal Cocks, New Zealand Cowboys Association president, said that as long as the protestors don’t break the law then they’ve got the right to protest, adding “we’ve listened to what they’re saying, we’ve made significant changes in the sport but they don’t acknowledge that and they’re just gonna keep protesting, not just this rodeo, they’re gonna continue protesting activities with animals and other sports and other walks of life, like farming, things like that, and we just have to accept that that’s their right to do that.”
The changes that Cocks mentions include reduced use of calfs, qualification requirements for people competing and increased minimum weight of calves for calf rides. He also noted that animal welfare is monitored by independent veterinarians at every rodeo event. Despite the protesting, Cocks is optimistic about the turnout, “Lots of people have turned up, lots of food stalls here”, with the event expected to draw three to four thousand people.
As for the protestors, Gollop says, “We’re a small group but we actually stand on behalf of the majority in New Zealand, a recent poll actually said that 59 percent of people in New Zealand agree with the fact that rodeos should be banned” referring to a 2016 poll. Whilst for now, the matter remains a domestic struggle between protestors and organisers, that could soon change with Green MP Gareth Hughes, who has a Member's Bill in the ballot which would look to ban rodeo in New Zealand.