After the recent controversy about the Chilliwack Fair board considering the cancellation of two rodeo events due to an anti-rodeo campaign by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), the British Columbia Rodeo Association (BCRA) responded to questions about the topic.
The story emerged after the Fair’s board issued a statement on July 31 following the VHS letter-writing campaign targeting Fair sponsors.
Tie-down (calf) roping and steer wrestling were the target of the campaign, and the Fair board agreed to review the events and vote in September to see if they can be modified or should be cancelled altogether for 2018.
The VHS said of the events, part: “Terrified calves, only three months old, are chased, roped to a sudden halt, picked up and thrown to the ground before being tied up and steers have their necks twisted until the are literally bent to the ground.”
Chilliwack Agricultural Society president Cathy Oss responded that all involved care deeply about the animals: “Animal health and safety remain our highest priorities and, as such, we will review the events of the rodeo to ensure that as we move forward those priorities are fulfilled.”
Whatever the board decides, with the Aug. 11 to 13 date of the fair fast approaching, the rodeo will go ahead as planned for this year.
The following is an email interview with BCRA vice-president Trish Kohorst:
The Progress: What do you think about the Chilliwack Fair board’s decision to review the tie-down roping and steer wrestling events to see if changes can be made and to vote on whether they should be eliminated altogether?
Kohorst: We respect the decision of the Chilliwack Fair Board. Given the pressure that is being put upon them, we can understand their position and the decisions they are making.
The Progress: What possible changes can be made?
Kohorst: Decisions the Chilliwack Fair Board make are completely at their discretion. We cannot anticipate their decisions. The BC Rodeo Association (BCRA) is a not-for-profit association and is governed by its’ rules and regulations. The BCRA will consider any requests made by the Chilliwack Fair Board.
The Progress: I’m told by the board that if those two events are eliminated, the Fair can’t have a sanctioned rodeo at all, is that correct?
Kohorst: The BC Rodeo Association is governed by its rules and regulations. The current rules require that a BCRA sanctioned rodeo must include the eight major events. Both of the events are considered as major events for our Association.
The Progress: Are the calves and steers “terrified” and treated inhumanely by participants in these events as the Vancouver Humane Society claims?
Kohorst: The calves and steers are most certainly not treated inhumanely. The members of the Association and the board of directors is comprised primarily of ranchers and farmers. They, as well as our stock contractors, are in fact subject matter experts in health and welfare of animals. The BCRA members, board of directors, stock contractors and committees continually ensure that the rodeo stock are well taken care of and conditioned for the events. The BCRA rulebook includes numerous rules regarding stock, including selection of suitable animals, size and conditioning requirements to name a few. The safety of the animals is a priority.
The Progress: People unfamiliar with ranching or farming see calves thrown to the ground, necks wrapped with rope, tongues sticking out. What do you say to those (mostly urban) folks who can’t help but think this instinctively is abuse of some kind?
Kohorst: We would invite these folks to come down and take a tour with our contractors so they can become educated in animal welfare and how important the health and welfare of these animals are to our association.
The Progress Is it safe to say campaigns like this are an example of urban misunderstanding of rural practices?
Kohorst: Campaigns are operations conducted to achieve an objective. We can only assume that the objective is for the VHS to use this event as a platform to express its opinion.