Williams Lake stock contractors were at the centre of controversy recently regarding an accusation of electronic cattle prod use at the Chilliwack Rodeo.
The Chilliwack Rodeo Association have spoke out on the issue, refuting the allegations by Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) that an electronic cattle prod was used to make an animal perform at the rodeo Aug. 10-12.
“This is untrue,” stated CRA president Len Blackstock.
Photos taken by VHS volunteers of Roy Call and sent to the media appeared to show an electronic device used on a bull during the bullriding competition at the Chilliwack Fair.
That is in dispute now.
“The handheld device is there for the safety of the animal and rider and was in his hand ready in case needed for an emergency,” said Blackstock.
Use of cattle prods on livestock is prohibited in the arena during rodeo performances, under B.C. Rodeo Association rules.
The only exception is for “chute stalling” animals, with contestant and contractor approval, and use of the device is only permitted by a qualified member.
“I feel it is necessary for me as President, and on behalf of the Chilliwack Rodeo Association to respond to the allegations about a hand-held device being used to make the animals perform,” Blackstock said.
That would be against the rules, he underlined, and if violated, fines could be issued.
In an interview with the Williams Lake Tribune this week, Roy Call confirmed the story but left direct comment on the use of HotShots to the Chilliwack Rodeo Association.
Overall, however, Call admitted times are changing in the sport of rodeo.
“Rodeo is under a lot of pressure,” said the rodeo stock contractor, referring to ongoing interference by the VHS and also even the financial burdens of running a rodeo.
“It effects us everywhere we go. Earl (Call) and I are actively looking at what rodeo is going to look like in 10 years. We’re feeling it out every day.”
Call said two generations ago, almost everyone either had a horse, rode a horse or at least knew something about them. That’s not the case today, and he believes that lack of understanding is hurting rodeo in the larger cities where events such as calf roping, team roping and steer wrestling are increasingly difficult to showcase.
He noted roping a calf on the open range, wrestling a calf or riding an unbroke horse are still a part of daily life on the ranch.
“People used to understand that, they weren’t that far removed.”
Call said he is still very proud of the sport of rodeo, and the ranching way of life, and believes maybe more work needs to be done to show the public how much care is taken with the animals.
“We need to ask ourselves, how do we stay relevant as a sport?”
Blackstock emphasized last week that the CRA proudly celebrated 30 years at the Chilliwack Fair and Exhibition in 2018 with huge community support. They attracted 35 local sponsors, and more than 6,000 spectators over three days of rodeo events.
“We all take pride in operating a quality performance, where animal welfare and safety are a top priority,” Blackstock said. “Once again, there was no injury to any of the stock.”
A veterinarian was available as usual during the Chilliwack rodeo, but not called into service.
“The Chilliwack Rodeo doesn’t condone mistreatment of the stock at our rodeo. The animals’ welfare is a major concern.”
The VHS initiated a back and forth communication with the Chilliwack Fair last year over some rodeo practices.
The focus that rodeo officials already have on conditions and treatment of livestock led to banning certain BCRA members from competing in the past, and adopting Calgary rules for tie-down roping and steer wrestling.
“With that in mind, the CRA will review the use of HotShots at our next meeting and look at what other rodeos are doing,” Blackstock said. “If we vote for them to be banned it will be written in our 2019 contract.”
There are also plans to continue to modify and improve the rules to continually better the sport of rodeo.
“We are hopeful that with these continued changes and through education and humane practices, that the history of rodeo and the cowboys’ skill can be enjoyed by all.”