Tie-down roping and steer wrestling will be part of the 2018 rodeo at the Chilliwack Fair, but some rules will change.
The Chilliwack Fair Board voted unanimously to make the changes, which come in response to a campaign by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) to ban what the society called “inhumane” events.
The VHS responded Monday saying its campaign against the Chilliwack rodeo will continue as the rule changes do nothing to reduce animal stress.
The Fair’s board of directors reviewed the two events in response to the VHS campaign to see if modifications could be made to reduce animal stress while still remaining a sanctioned rodeo. The board voted on Sept. 14 unanimously to make the changes.
“The Board conducted a thorough review of possible rule changes and industry best practices and consulted all stakeholders,” said Cathy Oss, President of the Chilliwack Agricultural Society. “They recognized that many sporting events change and evolve as techniques are refined and new information comes to light.”
For tie-down roping, if the calf is jerked off all four feet and its body touches the ground prior to the roper reaching the calf, the roper will be disqualified. A second change is that the six-second rule will not be in effect.
“Once time is called for and the contestant has taken one step towards his horse and maintains a forward motion towards his horse, a three second time will start,” the board explained in a press release issued Monday. “The calf must remain tied for the three seconds. The legal tie will include at least one wrap around any three legs and a half hitch. The tie must hold and the legs remained crossed until time is taken by the flag judge.”
As for steer wrestling, an automatic “no-time” will be given to a contestant if a steer “dog falls,” and a steer must be on its feet before being rolled to the ground.
“As always, the well-being of animals in our care is of top priority,” Oss said. “We are confident that we have the support of our community and our sponsors, and we know that our new facility combined with the rule modifications will ensure the safety and continued well-being of the animals in our care.”
But the VHS responded Monday saying the campaign against the Chilliwack Fair rodeo will continue.
“The rule changes will make no significant difference to animal welfare at the rodeo,” VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker said. “Terrified calves will still be roped and thrown to the ground and steers will still have their necks twisted until they are forced off their feet.”
Fricker said the changes do nothing to reduce fear, stress and pain for the sake of entertainment.
“We will redouble our efforts [at the 2018 Fair] to bring public attention to the rodeo and we will raise concerns about additional events such as team-roping,” Fricker said.
The Board said the British Columbia Rodeo Association (BCRA) was “gracious enough” to accept the rule changes to the 2017 Chilliwack Rodeo at the last minute.
The issue came up in a July 26 Vancouver Humane Society press release, in which spokesperson Peter Fricker said the two events tormented animals for crowd amusement, something that should be unacceptable in this day and age.
“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,” Fricker said.
In response to the VHS campaign in July, the BCRA said it is not true that the animals are terrified and the animals are well-taken care of.
The Board said further that the event modifications are in addition to safety measures already taken by the Chilliwack Agricultural Society to ensure animal safety every year.
“Organizers ensure animals are comfortable and well cared for with suitable enclosures and good quality feed and fresh water. Care takers will continue to be on site 24/7 and a veterinarian will continue to be available to ensure the wellbeing of all animals participating in the rodeo.”