July 04, 2005 15:07 ET

Calgary Stampede Horse Deaths Should Have Been Prevented Says HSC

Attention: Assignment Editor, News Editor VANCOUVER, BC--(CCNMatthews - July 4, 2005) - News reports that at least 9 Calgary Stampede horses were killed yesterday has drawn strong criticism from The Humane Society of Canada who says the deaths could have been prevented. "Trying to ride and herd 200 rodeo horses on a 206 km ride that last six days was a disaster looking for a place to happen," says Al Hickey, the animal charity's Western Regional Director. "This many horses are usually trucked to the Stampede grounds and with good reason. Horses are herd animals which react with fear and flight at the first signs of danger."

His remarks were echoed by HSC Executive Director Michael O'Sullivan who has worked with horses all of his life: "The best way to end this kind of cruelty is to prevent it from ever taking place. Our fascination with the 'Old West' is forcing these gentle noble animals to pay a heavy price."

News reports say that ranch hands had reportedly been guiding about 200 rodeo horses on a six day, 206 km journey from the Stampede ranch near Hanna, Alberta to the exhibition site near downtown Calgary. The event, Trail Ride 2005, was organized to commemorate the province's centennial. The horses were spooked and fell 10 metres from a bridge into the fast moving Bow River southeast of Calgary, were they were all killed. An investigation into this tragedy is underway.

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is asking Canadians and companies not to support the cruel animal spectacles that form a part of the Calgary Stampede which runs from July 8-17. "For the most part, humans and animals work together, but in rodeo events they meet in open conflict."

O'Sullivan, who has inspected rodeos in Canada and other countries holds a Bachelor of Science of Agriculture, and has worked extensively with horses, says that today's rodeo events have nothing to do with today's livestock handling practices. "Rodeo spectacles are nothing but entertainment for bored 'city slickers'. Horses, calves, steers and bulls suffer during countless hours of practice sessions where riders and ropers train to race against the clock for prize money. People need to find new ways to entertain themselves that doesn't involve this kind of trauma for animals," he says.

And anyone who believes that putting livestock into rodeo events saves them from that final trip to the slaughterhouse is simply fooling themselves. There are no 'retirement homes' for rodeo animals, says O'Sullivan.

The Humane Society of Canada believes that their five point action plan called "Ending Rodeo Violence" can help reduce and eventually bring an end to rodeo spectacles:

1. Develop creative engaging campaigns to encourage people to stop paying the price of an admission ticket;
2. Asking people not to stop spend their hard earned money to buy goods and services from ad agencies and their companies which promote rodeos;
3. The CRTC needs to legally enforce and make into law the current Canadian Broadcast Standards Council's voluntary guidelines for broadcasters which prohibit scenes showing cruelty to animals; and until this takes place require all broadcasters to issue a warning that rodeo events contain 'scenes of violence and that viewer discretion is advised';
4. Work with any municipalities that want to pass local bylaws to prohibit rodeo events;
5. Ask insurance companies and their brokers not to provide insurance coverage for rodeo events.

"We need to do everything in our power to reduce violence, and in our opinion, rodeo spectacles are cruelty for the sake of entertainment," says O'Sullivan. "This painful chapter in human history needs to be brought to a close."

CONTACT: Al Hickey or Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at

Additional Background

• A horse was killed at last year's Calgary Stampede following an injury that resulted in a broken leg
• Before that an 18-month-old steer was killed when his neck was broken at the Cloverdale Rodeo
• Rodeo riders who chose to take part in these events are also at risk and include a man who was killed in the Medicine Hat Stampede in 2000, three people who were killed in the 1999 Calgary Stampede and two other deaths in the 1995 Calgary Stampede
• More recently a director of the Cloverdale Rodeo was seriously hurt when he was hit by a bull
• A calf moving at speeds of up to 40 km/hr is suddenly jerked to a sudden stop when a rope is thrown around the animal's neck
• Bare back and bronc riding involve terrified animals trying to escape a painful bucking strap around their groin area as they tried to throw a rider from their back
• Chuck wagon spills have injured people and resulted in the deaths of horses

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has 6 grandchildren.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 90 countries during the last 35 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. They carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, fund scientific research, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

The Humane Society of Canada depends entirely on donations to support our programs to help animals and the environment. All donations are gratefully acknowledged with a receipt for income tax purposes. If you would like to support our campaigns to bring an end to animal cruelty please make a donation.
/For further information: IN: MEDIA

Contact Information

  • Michael O'Sullivan, Executive Director, The Humane Society of Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-368-0405
    Secondary Phone: 416-876-9685
    Toll-Free: 800-641-5463