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Protesters demand end to chuckwagon races, rally outside Alberta premier’s office

July 15: While the Calgary Stampede packs up after another year, the controversy around the deaths of six chuckwagon horses is heating up. As Cami Kepke reports, Stampede officials will launch an investigation into safety processes at the chucks.

A group of protesters gathered outside Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s office on Tuesday, calling for an end to chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede.

Six horses died competing in the chuckwagon races at the event this year, bringing the total to more than 70 in the event since 1986.

Stampede officials said in a statement Monday there will be review of safety surrounding chuckwagon racing, but it’s unclear what form the review will take.

READ MORE: 6 horse deaths at Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races renew calls for change

Tuesday’s protest saw a small group of demonstrators wear horse masks and carry a parody of the Calgary coat of arms.

“PETA is calling on the Alberta premier to immediately direct the Calgary Stampede to ban chuckwagon races from all future events to prevent more horses from dying in these cruel and inhumane spectacles,” PETA campaigner Amanda Brody said.

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She described chuckwagon races as “cruel and inhumane.”

“Tradition is never an excuse for animal exploitation,” Brody added. “Horses often sustain broken legs and backs as well as heart attacks. Suffering like this to horses may be illegal under Alberta’s Animal Protection Act as well.”

PETA rally at the Alberta legislature, asking government to ban chuckwagon races at Stampede, July 16, 2019.
PETA rally at the Alberta legislature, asking government to ban chuckwagon races at Stampede, July 16, 2019. Todd Merkley, Global News
PETA rally at the Alberta legislature, asking government to ban chuckwagon races at Stampede, July 16, 2019.
PETA rally at the Alberta legislature, asking government to ban chuckwagon races at Stampede, July 16, 2019. Todd Merkley, Global News
PETA rally at the Alberta legislature, asking government to ban chuckwagon races at Stampede, July 16, 2019.
PETA rally at the Alberta legislature, asking government to ban chuckwagon races at Stampede, July 16, 2019. Todd Merkley, Global News

In a news release Monday, PETA’s president called chuckwagon races “an ugly throwback to a more ignorant time and are staining Calgary’s reputation.”

“On behalf of its 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide including hundreds of thousands in Canada, and every kind person, PETA is calling on Premier Kenney to end these devastatingly cruel races,” Ingrid Newkirk said.

WATCH: 3 more horses euthanized at Calgary Stampede’s chuckwagon races Sunday

PETA acknowledged the Stampede changed its rules in 2010 after six horses died, but said more than a dozen horses have died since then.

Watch below (July 15): The annual Calgary Stampede has come to a sad end, with six horses dying this year, a death toll not seen since 2010. As Jill Croteau explains, the safety of the animals who play a starring role in the Stampede is facing scrutiny.

Renewed calls to ban chuckwagon races at Calgary Stampede after 6 horse deaths
Renewed calls to ban chuckwagon races at Calgary Stampede after 6 horse deaths

In a statement, the province said the Alberta government remains committed to the protection of animals.

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“We will continue to work with agencies or organizations empowered to address incidents such as these,” Danielle Murray, spokesperson for the ministry of agriculture, said in an email to Global News.

READ MORE: Second horse dies at 2019 Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races

“The Canadian Chuckwagon Association has developed codes of practice dedicated to the care of their horses. The Calgary Stampede has implemented strictly enforced animal care protocols to mitigate risks of injury or accidents.

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“The government is confident the 2019 events will be assessed by the Calgary Stampede and Canadian Chuckwagon Association to address how best to implement measures for improvement in safety and animal care.”

Brody said PETA had not heard back from the government in response to its request.

She said the organization is also calling on Albertans to sign the chuckwagon petition and stop attending events that use animals.