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James Wanless

this is where I write

The CBC supports animal cruelty, Calgary style

calf roping
There are many campaigns with which I do not get involved, even though I generally support them; causes with significant enough grey area that I am not riled to action. As a native Calgarian (and Vancouverite for the past 22 years), I’ve been bothered by many of the rodeo activities that are branded entertainment by the Calgary Stampede. Chief among them are calf roping and bull/bronc riding. Barbaric is too tame a word. While the end goal is man’s domination of the animal, as opposed to its death, I don’t view these particular events with much less disdain than I do the horrific Spanish ‘blood fiestas’ involving chickens, bulls and goats.

As such, when I recently saw a tweet by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), to send the CBC an email demanding they stop broadcasting the Calgary Stampede rodeo, I decided to send one. As opposed to repeating the letter here, you can edit and send your own email on the VHS site. You can also get contact information for Bell Canada to demand they stop sponsoring the rodeo.

I was somewhat surprised to receive a response from Jeffrey Orridge, Executive Director of CBC Sports, but was then disheartened to read what appears to have been crafted directly from talking points supplied by the Calgary Stampede. It’s basically paraphrasing information published on the ‘animal care’ section of the Stampede’s web site. Below I have interspersed paragraphs from Mr. Orridge’s response with paragraphs from my email back to him so that it flows like more of a dialogue. I CC’d this to the VHS and to Vern Kimball, Calgary Stampede CEO, reachable at vkimball@calgarystampede.com. Oddly enough, no response from Mr. Kimball so far.

The email dialogue

Organizations like the Calgary Stampede and those who support what they do begin from the assumption that it is our right to do as we wish with animals.

My position is that the CBC’s views are exactly what is wrong with how we generally view and ‘use’ animals in our society. Organizations like the Calgary Stampede and those who support what they do begin from the assumption that it is our right to do as we wish with animals. Many people who disagree with rodeo and other forms of animal exploitation ‘entertainment’ take exactly the opposite stance.

CBC: As the Calgary Stampede organizers are committed to providing the highest standard of animal care and safeguarding animal welfare, the organization works regularly with the Calgary Humane Society and the Alberta SPCA to ensure that stress on the animals is absolutely minimized. Both groups are on-site monitoring events and all competing animals are under constant veterinary care and attention throughout the Stampede.

Me: While the animals are certainly under some form of care, I cannot agree that the Stampede is committed to providing the highest standard of animal care, or they wouldn’t do this in the first place. Care says to me and many others that we’re protecting them from harm in the first place, not treating it when it occurs. The fact that they are working to ‘absolutely minimize’ stress on the animals suggests that it is wrong in the first place. Why do something to an animal when; a) they are incapable of giving their consent or choosing to do it, and; b) it requires stress precautions be taken in the first place?

If you could somehow ask a calf being roped, where its neck is yanked so hard its entire body flips out from below and lands with a resounding thud on its side, or a horse or bull being cinched around the loins so hard that it is trying to kick off the strap, whether some veterinary care after the fact makes the experience worth it, I have a pretty good idea what the answer would be. Or, put another way, if the Stampede instead decided to expose children to this depravity, but deemed it acceptable because they had a doctor on hand, no one would support it and you certainly wouldn’t broadcast it. However, because ‘entertainment’ animals are viewed as commodities and products, somehow it’s OK. We likely wouldn’t even do it with family pets. Of course, if they are not being used for these purposes, cattle are being raised for meat and dairy, so who’s to say which fate is worse?

CBC: It is also true that the animals involved in the Stampede are extremely valued by their owners – indeed the animals represent a considerable financial and emotional investment. Ensuring the safety of the animals and humans taking part in the Stampede are of paramount importance.

Me: I agree with the point you make about the value these animals have for their owners. It’s a strange type of emotional connection that allows a person to put their ‘loved ones’ through something like a rodeo event, but there is no question at all it’s mostly about money invested. Someone spends this kind of cash purchasing, feeding and raising an animal, they better be able to make a profit, eh? I seem to recall that the slave trade was based upon largely the same principles.

CBC: As you know, CBC has a long tradition of bringing this event to Canadians, one we feel has important value to a significant number of our viewers. Of course, we recognize that not everyone shares this perspective. It is clear that you fall into the latter group.

Me: If this programming has so much value for your viewers, why is it often being shown at midnight, when very few people are even watching? Is it the viewers that are important or some obligation you have to the Stampede that keeps it in your schedule? You say it has ‘important value to a significant number of your viewers’ but don’t offer any supporting evidence. Is it proof that we can hurt, exploit and use animals for our own purposes that has value? How about that our position at the top of the food and intelligence chain means we can do as we wish, with no concern for the terror and fear our actions cause in non-human animals.

CBC: I should like to point out that CBC News does broadcast news stories on the rodeo, including information about any animal injuries and care violations should they occur. We have also in the past aired features bringing attention to the differing opinions on rodeos as a representation of Canadian culture today.

Me: In some ways broadcasting this event demonstrates just how depraved people can be when it comes to their views on animals, though animal abuses in our society are far worse than this in many ways. Perhaps if you not only did news stories when injuries and violations occur but accompanied your Stampede broadcasts with information that balances the equation, it would be a start. And ‘injuries and violations’ are a laugh because animal protection laws have not been updated in ages and offer almost no protection. Further, those who violate them get slaps on the wrist and fines. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the CBC broadcasts this cruelty when society as a whole seems to care so little for animals.

If you feel similarly

While the odd voice doesn’t change this kind of policy, many voices do. In his opening paragraph to me, which I didn’t post above, Mr. Orridge states, “We know there is not a universal agreement about rodeos, and the Calgary Stampede in particular, among CBC’s viewing audience, but there are a number of actions both the Stampede organizers and the CBC take to address the strong differing points of view on this subject.” To open form letter responses this way is clear indication that opposition is strong to the broadcast of these events.

Further, that the Calgary Stampede publishes such a large section on animal care at their rodeos is further proof that a lot of people are speaking out about their distaste for the event. Add your voice to the mix. Direct communication is often the best approach and contact information for both Mr. Orridge and Mr. Kimball can be found below.

Jeffrey Orridge
Executive Director
CBC Network Sports
T. 416 205 5036
F. 416 205 6520
jeffrey.orridge@cbc.ca

Vern Kimball
Chief Executive Officer
Calgary Stampede
T. 1 800 661 1260 (North America toll free)
F. 403 265 7197
vkimball@calgarystampede.com

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