A popular Manitoba event is the target of animal rights activists calling for all rodeos to be banned.
A group called Manitoba Animal Save announced its intentions Friday to picket the Manitoba Stampede and Exhibition, which takes place over the weekend in Morris, Man.
The Stampede is a long-running tradition in the province, and includes traditional rodeo events such as bull-riding, steer wrestling, and saddle bronc riding.
Animal Save said in a statement that rodeos are “outdated events that are unnecessary violence against animals” that should be banned nationwide.
The group recently launched a petition via change.org to urge the provincial government to end the use of animals in Manitoba rodeos.
Six horses recently died during chuckwagon races at the 2019 Calgary Stampede, generating criticism about the event and rodeos in general.
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Organizers of the Manitoba Stampede have said animal safety will be a priority at this year’s event.
Mike Bellisle, rodeo director of the Manitoba Stampede, says precautions are planned, including daily veterinary check-ups for all participating animals.
While the Manitoba Stampede includes chuckwagon races, Bellisle says they are different than Calgary’s races, which sees riders driving large wagons pulled by large thoroughbred horses.
“In Manitoba we have … a smaller-stature horse with no outriders and a smaller wagon,” he said. “That means there is more space around the same half-mile track.”
Bellisle says drivers here don’t hit the high speeds that can lead to accidents and injuries during chuckwagon races.
As well as daily welfare checks on the rodeo’s animals, Bellisle adds safety briefings are held every morning where track conditions and the rules are discussed with participants.
“One incident ripples through the entire rodeo community pretty quickly and no one wants to have a disaster on their hands.” he said.
The protesters said they would set up on Highway 75 across from the rodeo’s main entrance.
–With files from Shane Gibson