Debate: Are rodeos unethical?

With the Cloverdale Rodeo coming up this weekend, many people are excited to attend and watch the athletes perform, drink some beer and eat some corn dogs. But whenever these kind of events roll around, the debate surrounding the ethics of rodeos is bound to arise. For every person in this world who adores rodeos and is excited to attend, there is also a person who is deeply averse to them. Many people believe that rodeos pose a detriment to the welfare of the animals.

In the past, it has been documented that rodeo animals have experienced serious abuse while being trained for these events. Some of the tools that have been used on animals include metal spurs, electric prods and bucking straps; these tools have been known to cause burns, injuries to tendons and ligaments and broken bones.

These criticism are met with resistance by those who engage in rodeo culture. Many people have been raised in families who have always taken an active part in the culture, so for them, it’s a very important part of their life. Barrel racers love and care for their animals deeply, and you can see that the horses also have a deep bond to their riders. In other events like bull riding, it doesn’t take an rigorous examination to deduce that the bull has a strong advantage over the rider. The question isn’t whether the bull will be able to hurl the rider off its back, it’s simply a matter how long the rider can hold on before the inevitable happens.

But other events, such as calf roping, can be a bit difficult to watch. The first time I saw a calf being wrangled and hurled to the ground as fast as possible, I will admit, I was unsettled. They’re just babies! And they look so scared!  In contrast to the bull riding where the animal clearly has the upper hand, this particular event rubs me the wrong way. I understand that wrangling calves is something that ranchers are required to do in real life for various reasons, but to turn this already unpleasant process into entertainment just seems unethical.

I’m on the fence with this topic because I can see both sides of the argument. But I will say that I think more thought should be put towards the nature of the specific events; perhaps in the future we will be able to phase out questionable ones while still allowing the rodeo as a whole to proceed.



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