Last Wednesday January 2, a small group of 10 protesters stood their ground for two hours outside the gates of the Wānaka Rodeo even when one hostile rodeo attendee screamed at the protesters, “I’m a Nazi, I’m a Nazi” whilst holding his right arm out in the universal symbol of facism and white supremacy. There were two children in the car with him at the time.
“It was very disturbing,” said Katherine Gollop president of the Queenstown Vegan Society and spokesperson for the protesters. Her partner, Gabby Robinson, took the photo.
“He was laughing a lot and shouting random things at us. Then he lifted both hands off the wheel to put one across his face like Hitler’s moustache, then one arm up in the salute, whilst screaming ‘I’m a Nazi’ at us,” she said. “It just goes to show what kind of people go to rodeos and enjoy these types of events.”
Rodeo protests have been ongoing for a few years despite election promises by Labour to ban the use of calves under 12 months old, electric prods, flank straps and rope-burning. Those promises remain unfulfilled as the Minister responsible for animal welfare, Meka Whaitiri, was sacked in 2018 and never replaced. Her portfolio was instead handed to Minister for Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, who is famously supportive of rodeo practices.
Gollop told the Wānaka Sun, “We’re here today to again remind the government and tell them that we’re not just looking for a ban on those elements, we’re looking for an overall ban. It’s outdated, it’s archaic, it’s cruel and there’s no need for this in New Zealand society.”
“We released a live stream video on our Facebook page in which I discussed why we were protesting the rodeo, and what the public can do to help shut rodeos down. We have had so much support from people who are against animal abuse, and we have had a lot of abuse from the people who are supporting animal abuse.
Gollop reported that there is a clear trend in that anyone not attending the rodeo supports their plight, whilst the people posting abusive messages on their live stream are the ones actively going to rodeos.
“It just goes to show the type of people we are dealing with here, and perhaps why the government is avoiding implementing a ban. These people claim to be animal lovers, but they simply love animals in the same way they love inanimate objects — as a means to some personal gain. I love my dog, and you don't see me lassoing her around the neck while she runs at full speed, throwing her to the ground, then tying her so she can't move. If I did that, I'd be charged with animal abuse. Because guess what, that is exactly what it is,” complained Gollop.
“We didn't get the chance to meet with the rodeo organisers. I perhaps think this is for the best as typically there is no getting through to them. They have absolutely no regard for the animals whom they exploit in these events, and they time and time again claim that these animals live great lives and don't feel any pain through the events. They seem to be completely ignorant to the fact that calves, horses, steers, and bulls all have central nervous systems and pain receptors that function in the same way as the animals we call pets, or indeed, in the same way as humans. It's quite shocking that we allow people who have such bizarre views of sentient beings to be solely in control of them during these events. Whether there is a vet on site or not, these animals are being put in compromising situations just by the very nature of the events in the rodeo.”
“It's really quite horrific just how personal the responses from the rodeo goers are when they do shout out. Perhaps they go for personal attack because they have no rationally grounded argument in response to what we are doing. We will continue to have a presence at the Wānaka rodeo and any others that we are able to protest at. We will also continue to reach out to sponsors of the rodeo and question them on their funding. We won't stop until the government calls a ban to this legalised form of animal abuse.”
In response, Lyal Cocks, New Zealand Cowboys Association president, and spokesperson for Wānaka Rodeo said, “I did not have expectations relating to protesters and I did not talk to them. They did not come to the rodeo. It was pleasing to note they were well behaved and did not aggressively intimidate the public as they did last year,” he said.
Cocks denied they cause animal abuse, “Yes, of course the animals are treated properly before, during and after the rodeo. It would be illegal not to treat them properly. Rodeo does not abuse or mistreat animals. Veterinarians and our Animal Welfare Officers check all animals before, during and after each rodeo and report on their health and wellbeing. There have been no negative reports. Animals are an integral part of the sport of rodeo and therefore a high standard of animal welfare is essential to ensure the animals are healthy, fit and ready to compete. Several community groups benefit from the rodeo where they participate to raise funds. These include: Riding for the Disabled (raised $2,200 by selling the rodeo programs for the Club; Wānaka Rowing Club; Wānaka Community Patrol; Upper Clutha Pony Club; Alpine Street Machines Car Club. And this year the Rodeo Club has selected ‘Food for Love’ as the group it will provide a grant to,” concluded Cocks.
Whilst for now, the matter remains a domestic struggle between protestors and organisers, that could soon change with Green MP Gareth Hughes who has a Member's Bill in the ballot which would look to ban rodeo in New Zealand.
— additional reporting from Caroline Moratti and Francesca Maria Nespolo.