Photo of calf roping taken during the 2016 Chilliwack Rodeo. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)

Chilliwack Fair says humane society’s anti-rodeo campaign has led to threats

Vancouver Humane Society says campaign is law-abiding and polite

The Vancouver Humane Society’s (VHS) ongoing campaign to stop the rodeo at the Chilliwack Fair violates anti-spam laws and has led to threatening messages.

That’s according to an email the VHS received recently in which the Chilliwack Fair also threatens legal action.

“Please remove all mentions of The Chilliwack Fair and any of the sponsors of The Chilliwack Fair including contact information, from your website, social media and print campaigns,” an email to the VHS signed The Chilliwack Fair said, in part. “Many of the messages received have been threatening and will be reported to the RCMP.”

The VHS responded, however, that not only is their campaign not covered by Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, but the animal rights organization only encourages polite discourse.

“Please be advised that we do not intend to alter our current campaign,” VHS executive director Debra Probert responded. “We do not encourage or condone violence or threats of violence and would agree that contacting the local police with specific concerns of this nature would be appropriate.”

The issue began before the 2017 Chilliwack Fair when the VHS specifically targeted tie-down roping and steer wresting at the rodeo, events the Society says are “inhumane.”

• READ MORE: Animal activists target tie-down roping, steer wrestling at Chilliwack Fair

The Fair board agreed to research the subject and review the rodeo events. In September, the decision was made to continue with tie-down roping and steer wrestling, albeit with some rule changes.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack rodeo to continue tie-down roping and steer wrestling

The VHS responded that the changes will do nothing to reduce animal stress.

That was the end of the matter for several months, but recently the VHS has ratcheted up its campaign against the rodeo, with a link to its website targeting the Chilliwack Fair’s sponsors.

In a June 2 Tweet, the VHS said: “Speak out against rodeo cruelty at the Chilliwack Fair” with a link to a petition and a campaign to target first Rogers, and now four other Fair sponsors.

In an interview with The Progress, President of the Chilliwack Agricultural Society Cathy Oss did not reveal what supposedly threatening messages were received, saying instead that the sponsors she spoke with preferred to stay positive.

“Some of the emails the sponsors have received have been less than polite,” Oss said. “I’ve spoken to the sponsors, and they would prefer not to dwell on the negative.”

She added that the Fair board and those sponsors targeted feel people are being misinformed and misguided about what goes on at the Fair and the rodeo.

“The only study we can find conducted several times found that the injury rate [of rodeo animals] is 0.04 per cent, about as small as you can get. And most of those were minor strains and sore muscles. It’s very low.”

The VHS disagrees, arguing that rodeo is inherently violent and abusive to animals.

As for the campaign, VHS communications director Peter Fricker said all messages that should be sent to sponsors of the Fair are done so through a template on their website.

“We always ask our supporters whenever they are contacting anyone involved in any issue to be polite,” Fricker said. “Because obviously we think that’s the way people should conduct themselves.”

As for the Anti-Spam Legislation, that only applies to commercial messages so is not relevant to the VHS campaign.

“Obviously our message is not a commercial message,” he said. “We’ve checked, and it doesn’t apply to us in any way.”

As for any response or reaction from the Fair to the VHS campaign?

“They haven’t said anything about making any changes for the rodeo. The only other reaction we’ve seen is the Fair has blocked us on Twitter and, for some reason, so has the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce.”

And the campaign doesn’t seem to be working. Oss said the Fair has approximately 100 sponsors and the rodeo has a further 30.

“That’s 130 local businesses that support the Fair and we are really grateful to them,” Oss said. “All have stood with us. The Chilliwack community has been very supportive.”

The 146th annual Chilliwack Fair is August 10 to 12 and will feature the 30th year of the rodeo.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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