Here is what the whole rodeo debate is all about: while rodeos have been going on for 200 years, public awareness has been growing that they cause physical and emotional harm to the animals forced to perform in them. Similar concerns have been arising about circuses and whale and dolphin acts, and of course the most barbaric abuse of all: bullfights.
Recently a Public Corporation was put into place in order to choose the activities for celebrating Montreal’s 375th anniversary. They decided to promote a 4-day rodeo as part of the festivities. There was a negative reaction in the press concerning rodeos partly because of some very serious injuries being reported. These range from torn ligaments to, sadly, even death. The case of Grady, the horse who died of a broken back at the Festival Western de St-Tite on May 28 was given a high profile in the media and concern abruptly mounted about whether rodeos were in fact ethical. The truth is that hundreds of these animals suffer severe injuries in rodeos and many of them die every year. The organizers of such events claim that they are ensuring the safety and welfare of their animals, of course, but this just doesn’t seem right to many people; and not just to animal activists but to regular folks watching the evening news or reading the morning newspaper. Everyone understands the economic benefits that such events bring to a region but it just doesn’t seem fair, or even remotely humane for that matter, that these organizers make money by entertaining (?) crowds at the expense of the health and safety of innocent animals.
As I became more conscious of the hypocrisy surrounding these rodeos I decided to help law professor Alain Roy and his amazing team of dedicated law students whose attempt to block the rodeo from coming to Montreal may succeed in changing the future of this abusive sport. Professor of family law at the University of Montreal, Alain Roy is well-known as a defender of children’s as well as animals’ welfare. Prof Roy explained to me that as of January 2015 the Province of Quebec has accorded to animals – who until then were just property according to the law — the status of “sentient beings with biological needs.” This means that Quebec law now forbids any activity that compromises the health and safety of any animal (except animals used in agriculture or science). It is quite unbelievable that it is only today, in 2017, that citizens are fighting to ensure that archaic laws on the treatment of animals are getting updated and enforced.
Thankfully the debate about the rodeos during Montreal’s 375th Celebrations has opened the door for those who do not believe that we should be creating revenue from the fear and distress we inflict on helpless animals under the guise of entertainment. Prof. Roy points out that what is being done to rodeo animals would be judged as appalling and unacceptable if it were being done to our own beloved pets or anyone else’s. What makes it any less unacceptable when it is done to the horses, calves, and steer in a rodeo?
Prof. Roy and his team, filing for an injunction against the Nomadfest Rodeo, succeeded in negotiating a court-certified agreement to create a balanced Consultative Committee consisting of 3 representatives for the rodeo, 3 representatives for animal rights, and 2 representatives from MAPAQ , which is the Quebec ministry responsible for the enforcement of the laws governing these animals. The goal of the Committee is to identify and assess the standards currently in practice for the security and well-being of rodeo animals.
Gathering the direct evidence for the Committee will be two external veterinary and behavioral experts and a photographer, appointed by Prof. Roy, who will be given unlimited access to examine and film each animal, before and after each trial, as well as to film each trial, throughout the 4 full days of the Nomadfest rodeo as well as the 11 full days of the St-Tite Festival Western Rodeo. All the data will be compiled and analyzed by further external experts, who will then write a final report to be submitted to MAPAQ within a year for review and recommendations in light of Quebec’s new law.
I also want to make it clear that apart from the appointed external experts and photographer, whose expenses need to be paid, all those who are involved in this project – from Prof. Roy, his students, and his attorney, to the 3 animal-rights members of the Consultative Committee and all the other dedicated helpers in the background — are doing this on a VOLUNTEER basis. It is in order to raise the funds to pay for the travel, lodgings and time of the external experts and photographer that Prof. Roy and his team have created a GOFUNDME campaign on the web. The success of their evidence-gathering mandate depends critically on the work of these external experts, so I urge all those who care about the fate of the hapless victims of the rodeo to contribute to this effort on GOFUNDME. I truly believe that together we will be able to protect the welfare of these animals, now, and forever. https://www.gofundme.com/Rodeo-illegal-Rod-o-ill-gal