Calgary Stampede Rodeo: Cruelty Dressed Up As Entertainment

The Calgary Stampede attracts large crowds, renowned musical headliners, and has many fun carnival games and rides. But the Stampede is also known for animal abuse, in the form of violent and deadly rodeo events.

Rodeo events cause immense animal suffering. Sensitive horses, cows, and calves are lassoed, wrestled, or roped to the ground in inhumane bucking, wrestling and roping tournaments.

These animals are not willing participants or athletes—they are forced into participating, and will be whipped, prodded, or kicked if they don’t.

By far the deadliest aspect of the Stampede are the “half-mile of hell” chuckwagon races, where teams of four horses are forced to pull a wagon at high speed around a track. Horses often crash into each other, become entangled, or otherwise fall—sustaining serious injuries. When horses are hurt, race competitors generally kill them instead of helping them heal.

Chuckwagon races are the deadliest events at the Calgary Stampede.
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur | We Animals Media

History of Injuries & Death at the Stampede

The Calgary Stampede was started in 1912 by a New Yorker who was obsessed with cowboys. Rodeo events have been a large part of the Stampede from the very beginning. But a lot has changed in the past century, including society’s attitude toward caring for animals. In the modern era, there’s no excuse to continue inflicting pain and fear onto animals in the name of entertainment.

The Vancouver Humane Society began tracking animal deaths at the Stampede in 1986. Since that time, over 100 cows and horses have been tragically killed in rodeos. Horses often suffer heart attacks or break legs and are euthanized, and calves can break bones as they are thrown in rope events. Animals die virtually every year at the Stampede.

Last year, Animal Justice called for cruelty charges after a horse was killed after falling in a chuckwagon race. Our lawyers also filed a legal complaint calling for an investigation after a horse was seen being hit in the face repeatedly during a broadcast of a Stampede bronc riding event.

2019 was the deadliest year in the past decade at the Stampede, with six horses killed after being forced to compete in dangerous chuckwagon races.

Illegal Cruelty at the Rodeo, but No Charges Ever Laid

Under Alberta’s provincial laws and national criminal laws, it’s illegal to inflict distress and suffering onto animals. Yet enforcement officials refuse to prosecute rodeo cruelty, and no action has been taken by any level of government to tackle this crisis.

No rodeo event or participant has faced prosecution in Canada since 1950—nearly 70 years—even though countless animals have faced egregious abuse or have lost their lives.

It’s time for law enforcement to finally crack down on animal cruelty at rodeo events, and for governments to step and end the suffering.

Calves suffer physical pain and mental torment in calf roping competitions.
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur | We Animals Media

It’s Time to End Rodeo Abuse

The cruel and violent events at the Calgary Stampede are outdated and belong in the past. For the lives and well-being of animals, they simply cannot continue.

Most Canadians oppose using animals in rodeos, and most Calgary Stampede attendees don’t even attend rodeo events. Stampede concerts, carnival rides, games, and parades already make it a great community celebration—no cruelty required.

Please join us in calling on Premier of Alberta Danielle Smith to usher in a cruelty-free future for the Stampede, by ending the suffering and death of innocent horses and cows.

Banner photo: Jo-Anne McArthur | We Animals Media