28 November 2022

Eurobodalla councillors urged to pull calf roping from Moruya Rodeo with event's licence up for renewal

| Claire Fenwicke
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Animal welfare at rodeos was debated at Eurobodalla Council as Moruya Rodeo’s licence is up for renewal. Photo: Animal Liberation, Facebook.

There have been impassioned speeches in Eurobodalla Shire Council chambers as councillors consider the future licence for the New Year’s Day Moruya Rodeo.

A petition “regarding animal cruelty at rodeos” was tabled at the recent council meeting, urging councillors take “whatever action necessary” to remove events from the rodeo which “involve the imposition of pain upon any animal”.

“Pain is defined in the [Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979] as including ‘suffering’ and ‘distress’,” the petition stated.

“Meeting that requirement would therefore, at the very least, require the removal of the calf-roping event in which terrified calves are chased, lassoed and jerked to a sudden stop and then flung on their backs.

“This action clearly inflicts pain.”

It had collected some 450 signatures.

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It comes as the Moruya Rodeo’s five-year licence is coming up for renewal for events from 2024 onwards.

Council recommended a condition be added to any future licence that the event must comply with the NSW Department of Primary Industry’s (DPI) Code of Practice for animals used in rodeo events.

Both the petition and event were debated during a public forum before the meeting.

Moruya Rodeo Committee president Andy Mehl said the event was already operating in accordance with the DPI’s Code.

“As a member of the ABCRA (Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association), we adhere to the rules and regulations,” he said.

He submitted a letter written by the local vet who currently oversees the event, reading the practice “has always been impressed with the condition and care that is taken with animals and their welfare.”

“We have never had to attend an injury by animals involved in the rodeo,” it stated.

Mr Mehl also pointed out about 4000 people – both locals and tourists – attended the event annually, and in good financial years it donated extra cash.

The ABCRA’s executive officer Craig Young also spoke, stressing “safety and welfare” of animals and riders in the industry was “imperative”.

“We have a rate now of less than 0.2 per cent of injuries to animals in rodeo on an annual basis,” he said.

“Those animals are exposed to and taken through a process to make sure they understand where they’re going on a rodeo round, what they need to do and how they need to do it.”

He said in his time with the ABCRA he wasn’t aware of any prosecutions for animal cruelty, legal challenges for events and described the rulebook as “more stringent than the code of practice itself”.

It was pointed out the animals used in calf roping had been weaned, and had a weight requirement of 100 – 140 kilograms.

Mr Young also explained ropes now had a mechanism to allow for a slower tightening similar to abseiling.

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There were those opposed to the event as well, including Animal Liberation’s regional campaigns manager Lisa Ryan.

She said the rodeo contained both “perceived and very real” acts of animal cruelty, suffering and exploitation.

“[We need to examine] practices we allow on some species but would condemn to practice on others,” Ms Ryan said.

“Would council approve or support an event licence for five to six years for a rodeo which included dogs and puppies rather than cattle, calves and horses?”

Local signatory Peter Cormack was particularly disturbed about calf roping – now referred to as a ‘rope and tie’ event – and its inclusion in the Moruya Rodeo.

“[You] can’t but describe that as an act of cruelty upon an animal, there’s simply no question,” he said.

“They experience fear, they experience terror.”

He also took issue with the code of practice itself, as it referred to injury of an animal rather than welfare.

“When you’re yanking some animal around or strapping it up, you’re tormenting it, that is not welfare for the animal,” Mr Cormack said.

“You could treat an animal cruelly and not injure it.”

When it came time for the debate, Councillor Tubby Harrison drew issue with the fact the petition had begun in 2019, and was therefore three years old.

“I just think this petition’s outdated,” he said.

“I cannot see why we’re going backwards-looking in time when everybody said they’re trying to look forward.”

Cr Amber Schutz responded that while the petition may have begun then, more signatures had been collected recently with the purpose to be ready for the rodeo’s licence renewal.

“The attitudes within the community are still current,” she argued.

Cr Rob Pollock wondered why council needed to add the condition that the event comply with the DPI’s code of conduct.

“They already acknowledged they comply, we don’t have to tell them,” he said.

Councillors agreed the 2023 rodeo could go ahead under the current licence, while it will seek public feedback until 31 January before making a decision about renewing the licence for Moruya Rodeo for 2024 onwards.

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