29 March 2023

Moruya rodeo licence renewed for five years after emotional council debate

| Albert McKnight
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Supporters and opponents debated rodeos at Euroboalla Shire Council’s meeting. Photo: Animal Liberation Facebook.

At the end of an emotional and polarised debate, Eurobodalla Shire councillors renewed a licence to hold a rodeo in Moruya for the next five years.

The Rodeo Association of Moruya has held the Moruya Rodeo on New Year’s Day for several decades, Eurobodalla Shire Council staff say.

The council received an application to renew the rodeo’s licence for another five years and the matter came before councillors at their meeting on Tuesday (28 March), starting with a public forum that canvassed issues ranging from animal cruelty concerns to the impact of the event on the local economy.

Moruya Rodeo Association president Andy Mehl said rodeos were one of the most scrutinised sports in the country, which was a good thing as it made the sport safer.

“With only a small number of members, we all take pride in running a very professional event,” he said.

He said that this year there had, unfortunately, been an accident, in which a steer broke the end of its horn. But the steer was not used in the event and was immediately taken for an assessment.

Mr Mehl said the New Year’s Day rodeo attracted visitors and locals and this year’s event was its biggest ever, pulling in about 5000 people.

“We couldn’t actually fit them all in,” he said.

“If this is not a sign of support, I don’t know what is.”

READ ALSO Moruya’s New Year’s Day rodeo to go ahead as activists push for it to be banned

It would be a “terrible blow” to the community if the Moruya rodeo’s licence wasn’t renewed, he said.

Mr Mehl also spoke about how his association gave back to its community. For instance, it had donated to Meals on Wheels, Moruya High School and Moruya Hospital. About $10,000 had already been handed out, with more to come.

Opposing the rodeo, RSPCA Australia senior scientific officer Dr Di Evans told councillors some people believed that as rodeos were legal, there must be no animal cruelty in them, but this was not the case.

She described lassoing calves as “horizontal hanging”. She argued calves risked injury in a rodeo’s rope-and-tie events, including damage to windpipes, and she invited councillors to press on their windpipes to see how painful it would be to be lassoed.

When it came to events with horses, Dr Evans said they were spurred and displayed fear, stress and pain, as evidenced by them blindly kicking rails.

Also, she said bulls had suffered catastrophic leg fractures in rodeos and claimed research showed bucking bulls were 13 times more likely to have a spinal disorder than non-bucking bulls.

Dr Evans said rodeos were promoted as family-friendly entertainment, but they were “definitely not fun for the animals”.

When councillors discussed the issue among themselves, Cr Rob Pollock OAM took aim at some of the arguments raised in the debate, claiming they had seen “people telling other people how they should live, how they should behave”.

“We’re not declaring war here. It’s a legitimate body conducting a legitimate and identified activity on a council facility,” he said.

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

According to Cr Tubby Harrison, there was “so much overwhelming support” for the event that councillors “should not be even considering voting no”.

Cr David Grace argued if the rodeo didn’t go ahead then another event would take the opportunity to fill the New Year’s Day spot and Cr Anthony Mayne claimed if the licence was renewed then the shire would “see a level of animal cruelty”.

Also, while NSW laws allow rodeos, Cr Alison Worthington said state legislators didn’t always get it right.

Councillors voted six to three to approve the renewal of the licence, with Crs Worthington, Grace and Mayne opposed.

The approved motion says the annual Moruya Rodeo can be held at the Moruya Showground for the next five years under conditions that include complying with all relevant legislation, in particular about animal welfare.

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I’ve been thinking of this and I’m not sure if I support rodeos or not, but my comments aren’t really about that. I’d just like to just list a couple of small cultural things that have disappeared in recent years. Circuses with animals, balloons, birthday cakes at pre-schools and primary schools. I think rodeos will be gone sometime in the near future as well as Australia Day and fireworks (replaced by lightshows). I know in the overall scheme of things these are minor, but you know, they were important to someone at some point in time and we can’t offend anybody can we??.

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