Bull-rid­ing event draws an­i­mal wel­fare protest

Over 68,000 have signed an on­line pe­ti­tion urg­ing the Sco­tia­bank Cen­tre to can­cel the Pro­fes­sional Bull Riders up­com­ing tour date.

The Coast - - THE CITY / OPINIONATED - BY SAM GILLETT

De­spite pub­lic back­lash and calls to can­cel the event, pro­fes­sional bull rid­ing is set to visit Hal­i­fax this spring.

Over 68,000 peo­ple have added their names to an on­line pe­ti­tion urg­ing the Sco­tia­bank Cen­tre to can­cel Pro­fes­sional Bull Riders (PBR) Canada’s Elite Mon­ster En­ergy Tour sched­uled for May 26.

Tony Payzant, an HRM based ed­i­tor, started the pe­ti­tion af­ter she heard the event was headed to Hal­i­fax. She said sup­port so far has been “in­cred­i­ble.”

“I’ve been against an­i­mal cru­elty of any sort since for­ever. It’s al­ways dis­gusted me watch­ing rodeo ac­tion,” Payzant says.

Ac­cord­ing to the pe­ti­tion, pub­lished on March 2, forc­ing an­i­mals to per­form is un­eth­i­cal. It claims PBR’s bulls are mis­treated by han­dlers, fit­ted with painful flank straps and abused with elec­tric prods.

A spokesper­son for PBR de­nies that elec­tric prods are used to ag­gra­vate their an­i­mals. Ka­cie Al­bert says the bulls, each worth up to $500,000, are cared for “just like star ath­letes.”

“There is trag­i­cally a stag­ger­ing amount of an­i­mal abuse in the world. None of it is hap­pen­ing in the PBR, where we cel­e­brate our an­i­mal ath­letes, and give them a great, long life,” writes Al­bert in an email state­ment.

Pro­fes­sional Bull Rid­ing has grown from Amer­i­can cow­boy roots into an in­ter­na­tional com­pany and a money-mak­ing ma­chine. Pro­fes­sional cow­boys at­tempt to ride har­nessed bulls as they buck and jump for arena au­di­ences and fans on TV.

Branded by car com­pa­nies and en­ergy drinks, PBR has awarded $180 mil­lion of prize money and built a multi-mil­lion dol­lar en­ter­tain­ment em­pire on the backs of buck­ing bulls.

But an­i­mal wel­fare ac­tivist Hugh Chisholm says the fo­cus on over­pow­er­ing an­i­mals is still un­eth­i­cal, es­pe­cially when the peo­ple do­ing so have be­come su­per­stars and mil­lion­aires.

“To me, the mes­sage bull rid­ing gives to kids is that it’s OK for men to ride on an­i­mals and try to over­power them,” says the re­tired Hal­i­fax vet­eri­nar­ian.

Chisholm says it’s the ap­pear­ance of pain that mat­ters—and watch­ing ag­gra­vated bulls try to buck off riders seems to be a strange and un­healthy form of en­ter­tain­ment.

“What mes­sage does that kid leave with when they go home and in­ter­act with other an­i­mals?” asks Chisholm, who says he plans to voice his con­cerns with provin­cial min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture Keith Col­well.

This is the first time since 2011 that PBR has come to the city, how­ever Hal­i­fax isn’t the only place where the sport has been crit­i­cized. Bull rid­ing com­pe­ti­tions in Mon­treal, Van­cou­ver and Win­nipeg in the past few years drew protests as well.

Lo­cal an­i­mal rights groups like the SPCA are pub­licly op­posed to Bull Rid­ing events as well—es­pe­cially in re­gions like Hal­i­fax where rodeos aren’t a cul­tural tra­di­tion.

In an email state­ment sent on Fe­bru­ary 5, Sco­tia­bank Cen­tre rep­re­sen­ta­tives said they are aware of the con­tro­versy but have no plans to can­cel the bull-rid­ing event.

“We are aware some of our cus­tomers have ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment with this event; we have also had a fair amount of in­ter­est in the event. We will cer­tainly take any feed­back into con­sid­er­a­tion for fu­ture plan­ning as we con­tinue to evolve our ap­proach to event at­trac­tion.”

ROBYN MCISAAC

PBR stock con­trac­tor Matt Scharp­ing with his bull Magic Train, at the 2017 PBR World Fi­nals in Las Ve­gas.

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