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Rodeo sport of calf rappelling causes stress, anxiety and should be banned: RSPCA

The RSPCA has renewed its call for a ban on lowering calves.

If you’ve been to a rodeo or watched the hit US television series Yellowstone, you’ve probably seen it, but the RSPCA says the practice causes fear and pain and should not be viewed as entertainment.

Important points:

  • RSPCA calls for a nationwide ban on calf rappelling
  • Queensland endorses the sport after a December review
  • The Rodeo Association says injury rates are very low and animal welfare is respected

WARNING: This article contains footage that may cause concern for some viewers.

Calf rappelling has long been a part of the rodeo scene, dating back to when riders on horseback did all the work on the farms.

A rider throws a loop of rope around the neck of a calf, dismounts and then ties three legs together in as short a time as possible.

Calf leash is still used on ranches in the United States, but not so much in Australia, as horses have replaced vehicles in ranching.

The practice has been effectively banned by the governments in Victoria and South Australia, and the RSPCA is calling for the ban to be extended to other states by raising the minimum weight of animals used to 200 kilograms.

Rodeo fans see it as a sport, but white eyes and roars are signs of a calf in need, according to animal rights groups.Delivered: RSPCA)

Di Evans, Senior Research Associate at RSPCA Australia, has 20 years of veterinary experience and says recent studies show that calves are exposed to high levels of stress and anxiety during calf rappelling.

“When these calves get out of this chute, they are literally running for their lives,” she said.

Dr. Evans said observers noticed that when calves were caught and forced to the ground, you could see the whites of their eyes as they roared in fear.

“That’s a very important indicator that animals are suffering,” she said.

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Calf rope review

The Queensland government completed an Animal Care and Welfare Review (Code of Conduct for Rodeos) in December.

The government turned down a joint call by animal rights groups to ban hanging calves, frustrating Animal Liberation Queensland’s rodeo campaign director Gayle D’Arcy.

“The government ignored scientific evidence of their harm and unanimous calls for a ban on the five animal rights groups,” she said.

“Despite numerous deaths and injuries to rodeo animals that have been documented in recent years, the presence of a veterinarian on site at rodeos is still not mandatory.”

Cowgirl wearing white shirt and black hat on a horse ropes a black calf.Some rodeos practice a different version of the sport in which the calf is roped, but not thrown and tied. (ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

Rodeos respect animal welfare

Craig Young, executive officer of the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association, said the sport is “very respectful” of animal welfare, has a code of conduct to ensure it is done correctly, and banned all drivers doing wrong.

“We keep a thorough record of animal injuries … and for the past 30 years of competition, the animal injury rate has been below 0.02 percent,” he said.

“We will not tolerate a competitor or contractor who improperly handles inventory.”

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He refutes the RSPCA’s claim that the sport is abusive.

“There is a technique associated with handling the animal and it is not an abusive technique,” he said.

Mr Young said the industry had done a lot of work to develop a device that reduced the effects of abseiling on the animal by 70 percent, and rodeo animals typically lived better lives than paddocks.

A pulley device attached to a saddle and used to do calf rappelling The “Ropersmate” rope pulling device was developed to reduce the recoil on the calves immediately after roping up around the neck.Supplied: Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association)

Mr Young did not deny that exercise causes stress in the calves, but said it was no worse than what they experience on the farms.

“Tests have shown that animals used in calf roping are not exposed to more stress than an animal treated or handled in normal animal husbandry practices,” he said.

With 1,100 riders gathering in NSW for the Tamworth Rodeo Round Up and the RSPCA saying it won’t rest until all sport is banned, it doesn’t look like this stalemate will be resolved anytime soon.

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