Rodeo officials try to calm safety concerns
Updated: 2011-07-20 08:13
By Cao Yin and He Dan (China Daily)
A rider tries to rein in his horse at the 99th Calgary Stampede on July 11 in Canada. A rodeo show will be held at the Bird's Nest in October despite resistance from animal rights campaigners. Huang Xiaonan / for China Daily
Show's opponents claim that profit motive overrides welfare of animals
BEIJING - Organizers of a rodeo at the Bird's Nest Stadium in October have refused to bow to pressure from animal rights campaigners to cancel the show.
The eight-day extravaganza is part of a cultural exchange program between China and the United States, yet critics say it is entertainment based on animal cruelty.
"In one event at the rodeo, a running calf is suddenly (lassoed and) pulled up by a rider. This can break the frightened calf's neck," Qin Xiaona, head of the Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA), said on Tuesday.
She argued that the rodeo will not represent the culture of the US West and has been organized purely to generate profits.
The association is among 68 Chinese and six international animal rights organizations that have written to protest about the show, which is scheduled to run at the Bird's Nest - officially called the National Stadium - from Oct 3 to 10.
Guo Tiefu, a spokesman for US organizers Rodeo China, on Tuesday told China Daily the event will be staged as planned.
Guo said the rodeo is a legitimate use of animals in sport, along with most other organized equestrian events worldwide.
However, Li Liguo, secretary-general of the China International Friendship Cities Association, one of the Chinese organizers, told Beijing News that Chinese and US staff members will discuss the campaigners' concerns and may remove some events.
However, Guo said during the rodeo animals perform for less than 8 seconds, which helps to protect them from serious injury.
"The US holds rodeos more than 5,000 times a year, and most states have laws to regulate the performances," he said, adding that the ropes used on calves during the "tie-down roping" event are all in line with the laws."The belts are thick enough and made of sheep fur. They are safe for the animals."
Guo said the animal protectionists exaggerate the injury risks to rodeo livestock.
According to a document provided by Rodeo China, a survey conducted in 1999 and 2000 in the US found only 38 out of 17,743 rodeo animals were injured.
Comfortable resting areas near the Bird's Nest will be provided for the animals.
"We are looking forward to the public, the media and those associations observing what we do," Guo said. "We are negotiating with them about the show and would like to accept any reasonable suggestions they have."
However, he said the amount of investment in the event is a commercial secret and refused to give any details. Ticket prices have not been finalized.
Guo stressed that rodeos have a long history in many Western countries and participants must obey the laws in regard to the horses and cattle.
"Those animals are like the performers' friends. Do you think they would hurt their friends?" Guo said.
"In our western and rural areas, a lot of people grew up with the rodeo culture and the event is totally normal," said Josh Manson, a Californian graduate student in Beijing. "They're used to that as daily entertainment."
If the rodeo cannot be called off, CAWA urged the show's US sponsors, Less is Forever More Inc. and ZZYX Entertainment, to ensure that all rodeo livestock are well treated during and after the show, according to a public letter CAWA released at a press conference on Friday.
The letter also suggested that advertisements for the rodeo should state explicitly that the show is not appropriate for people younger than 18.
Liu Ning, a 24-year-old fan of equestrianism in Beijing, said she gave up the idea of watching the live performance because it may hurt both the livestock and performers, judging from some pictures she saw online.
"The events are still based on provoking animals to please audiences, which I cannot accept," she added.
Todd Balazovic contributed to this story.
(China Daily 07/20/2011 page7)