Today's Calgary Herald reversed a longtime policy of refusing to run advertisements critical of the famous Calgary Stampede. For those of you who aren't aware of the Stampede, it is a huge event held each July in Calgary, Alberta - ten days of rodeos, exhibitions, games, chuckwagon races, rides and so forth. It is the biggest rodeo in the world and draws a million visitors to the province each year. The Stampede dates back to 1886.
And this is the first time in the long history of the Stampede that Calgary's main newspaper, the Herald - founded in 1883 - has allowed the publication of an advertisement taking aim at the Stampede. The $15,000 ad, pictured below, was taken out by the Vancouver Humane Society in today's Herald.
Interestingly, the advertisement shoes calf roping, but does not specifically mention the Calgary Stampede. The ad has caused some controversy. The Calgary Humane Society has taken a strong welfarist position and attacked the Vancouver Humane Society for its emphasis on "animal rights." As the Calgary Humane Society (CHS) notes in its Stampede press kit:
While other organizations may wish to intervene through protest, or other means, CHS has found it can best protect the interests of the animals involved by working with organizations that put on such events. (Source)
But there is no getting around the fact that rodeos brutalize animals. I've been to several rodeos (having grown up in the western United States). I've seen what these animals go through. Welfarists who are apologists for rodeos such as this one can talk all they want about emphasizing the well-being of the animals. And when you get right down to it, rodeos aren't as gruesome and gory as bull fights (which set the bar incredibly low when it comes to the treatment of animals). But make no mistake about it: Rodeos are still a form of extreme animal exploitation.
I'm a lifelong Westerner, born in Calgary. I know why people love rodeos. They can be very exciting events, where families and friends get together and have a good time. And I hate it when some elitists try to write off rodeo fans as rednecks. That's a crock. I don't buy it for an instant. Yet it is impossible to deny that animals are treated very roughly at rodeos. We would be a lot better off if the rodeo had never been invented, and if the good people who attend them could achieve a sense of community and camaraderie by some other means.