Animal welfare activists protesting outside the Martinborough Parklee Bullride event on Friday, when a bull was injured and euthanised. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
Animal rights advocates are calling for a ban on rodeos after a bull broke its leg and had to be euthanised at Friday’s bull ride event in Martinborough.
Hundreds of spectators watched on as the injured animal lay in the arena in pain following the incident, which event organisers have dubbed a “freak accident”.
It is understood the bull’s leg was broken after its rider had dismounted.
SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen said it “took some time” for the situation to be dealt with, which would have been distressing not only for the animal but “highly upsetting for the crowd of people who were there watching”.
“A vet on site sedated the bull and then the bull staggered into a side pen, out of the arena, and then was euthanised.”
SPCA staff were at the event to ensure the Animal Welfare Code was complied with, Mrs Midgen said.
“As an organisation, the SPCA does not support rodeo or bull ride events but we were obliged to be there.
“We believe it’s time for rodeos to be banned.”
NZ Rodeo and Cowboys Association’s Shane Bird organised the Parklee Bullride event but on Sunday said he did not wish to comment.
In a press release, NZ Rodeo and Cowboys Association president Lyal Cocks said the incident was “regrettable” and would be the “subject of an internal inquiry” to ensure that best practices were observed, and the Rodeo Code regulations were adhered to.
If the investigation revealed correct protocols were not followed, the association would “absorb and learn the lessons”.
Mr Cocks said all indications were that it was a “freak accident”.
“It was clearly an unfortunate accident but even though they are very rare in our sport, one needs to accept that accidents do happen.”
However, Lynn Charlton, spokesperson for Anti Rodeo Action NZ, said there were many examples of animals being injured in the name of human entertainment in New Zealand.
Off the top her head, she listed at least four publicised incidents in which bulls or horses were hurt since 2014.
A witness to Friday night’s incident had timed how long the bull was left lying in the arena in pain, Ms Charlton said.
“The informant looked at her watch and she timed it, and it was about 11 minutes that the bull was down for.
“He was apparently bellowing and salivating.
“Other bulls were released into the arena and formed a circle around him . . . he then crawled out of the arena with its broken back leg.”
Ms Charlton said the action group was now calling for a prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act for “failing to ensure that an animal was handled in a way that minimises unnecessary or unreasonable pain and distress”.
She said it was troubling that children and teenagers had witnessed the ordeal, and were attending these kinds of events, which modelled “that abusing and terrorizing animals for fun is acceptable”.
It was the fifth annual Parkee Bullride event to be held in Martinborough.
For the past few years, animal welfare activists have protested out the front of the site, on Lake Ferry Rd.
On Friday, there were 13 protestors present, including Wellington Animal Rights Network’s Jasmine Gillespie-Gray.
The group left earlier than expected, she said, after being harassed by a few people working at the event.
She said protesters had been sprayed with a water pistol containing a liquid she thought was flammable.
“We thought it was a little bit dangerous staying.”
Ms Gillespie-Gray said she would be raising the staff’s behaviour with the Parklee Bullride organisers and site owners.
Regarding the death, she said while the group accepted this did not happen often, the incident highlighted why rodeos — which did not reflect a modern New Zealand– should be banned.
“Animals that are put into rodeo events are going to experience injuries, they’re going to experience stress, and there is the risk of them dying from injuries they get from performing.”
Animal activist group SAFE is also calling for an end to rodeos, with a statement issued calling the Wairarapa incident “appalling”.