A small group of protesters gathered in front of the Cloverdale Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon to protest the Cloverdale Rodeo’s use of animals in their annual performances.
Organizer Sarah W. Fox began the demonstration by going over her guidelines on how the group would make the protest a peaceful one. The protesters — numbering four adults, two children when the Cloverdale Reporter arrived around 1 p.m.— were asked to speak calmly with rodeo-goers, to offer pamphlets, and to respect event security and RCMP.
“We’re here protesting at the rodeo because we don’t agree with it. We believe it to be animal cruelty and they’re exploiting the animals,” said Fox, who has been protesting the Cloverdale Rodeo every year since she moved to Surrey in 2015.
“These are animals that are being forced into situations that they would otherwise never been in. They’re put through a lot of rigorous training, they are put into a ring of cheering people, it’s very terrifying for these animals.
”Myself, I have never attended a rodeo. I’ve seen a lot of rodeo footage, and from what I’ve seen these animals look really scared,” she said.
The Cloverdale Rodeo banned some of rodeo’s most controversial events, including roping and wrestling, in 2007, following the death of a calf.
Sunday’s protesters are against any use of animals for entertainment purposes, and take a position against the Cloverdale Rodeo’s rough stock events, barrel racing and Mutton Bustin’.
Mutton Bustin’ is an event where a child older than 3 and under 45 lbs is placed onto the back of a sheep and tries to hang on as long as possible. Fox said she finds the event “particularly disturbing” and pointed to a protest sign that referred to the event as both animal and child abuse.
“Sheep are really docile animals, and are scared easily. For them to be put into a ring, with a child on top of them, with people screaming and yelling, is just so terrifying for these sheep,” she said. “As a parent, I would never subject my children to an experience where they could possibly get seriously injured.”
“We don’t need to use animals for entertainment,” she said. “Whether its at a rodeo, at a zoo, at an aquarium or anywhere. Animals are not for our entertainment.”
A couple of protest signs read “Keep the fair, buck the rodeo.” When asked if she would support the fair, which includes a petting zoo, Fox said, “Myself, I’m against that.”
She explained that sometimes, when they hand out the pamphlets, they’ll ask people not to enter the petting zoo.
“If they had the fair, and didn’t have the rodeo, I don’t think we’d be coming out to protest the petting zoo,” she said.
In response to the protesters, Cloverdale Rodeo spokesperson Laura Ballance said she respected their difference of opinion.
“We are incredibly proud of our animal rights position and we work with some of the best in the business, [including] the SPCA that is on site pre-event and throughout the event,” said Ballance.
“I will point out that the animals are incredibly valuable and the average bull, for example, works less than two minutes of the year. It gets the very best veterinary attention the very best feed. They are highly prized parts of the extended family of their owners.
“So sometimes you have a philosophical difference with somebody. We respect their right to have their opinion and we ask that they do the same for us and the tens of thousands of people who come out to enjoy the rodeo events here.”
“This is a rough stock rodeo, we do not have the calf roping or the steer wrestling that sometimes protesters at other events may be most interested in,” said Ballance.
“If they do not believe in this type of entertainment at all, whether its dog shows or rough stock rodeos or equestrian events, then I guess that it’s a philosophical difference that we are on different sides of.”