Save A Horse, Eat A Donut

As it enters its final three days, the horse death toll at the Calgary Stampede has reached six – a number that Stampede spokesperson Doug Fraser describes as “very unusual and very upsetting.” [source] However, death is nothing new to the annual event. In fact, since 1986, more than 50 chuckwagon horses alone have died as a result of various levels of participation at the Calgary Stampede. [source] This number does not include other animals involved, such as grown cattle and baby calves used in rope-tying events.

Calgary Stampede 2008

Photo: NailaJ on Flickr

There’s no definitive reason for the deaths of the six horses at this year’s event. Cause has ranged from broken legs, cardiac arrest due to stress and even a horse that was bucking so wildly it broke its own back and was subsequently put down. [source] Not unlike horse racing, these beasts are forced to perform, holding up their 1,000-pound bodies on ankles not much thicker than yours or mine. Ouch.

All of this leads me to ask only one question: What is the magic number?

Which number of dead animals serves as the pivot point for the Calgary Stampede to move from “family entertainment” to “unnecessary cruelty”? Though the event is considered an Alberta tradition – mini donuts included – the notion of tradition does not automatically translate to ethical or humane.

I Love Animals

Many fans of the Calgary Stampede will argue that it’s the nature of the beast, so to speak, and that these horses are simply performing in ways that their bodies were designed to perform. While it’s true that horses run, buck and jump in a natural environment, the Calgary Stampede creates an entirely different circumstance.

It’s interesting that this annual event – and ensuing annual debate – is surfacing simultaneously with a similar deliberation in Vancouver. Vancouver Parks Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon is putting forth a motion to hold a public referendum and consider whether or not whales should be held in captivity. Using animals for entertainment or “sport” – as in the stampede, horse racing, zoos and aquariums – is a hotly contested debate, one in which opinions are always strongly divided.

Where do you stand on the issue?

I’m once again fundraising for the BC-SPCA’s Paws For A Cause, aiming to raise $2,000 by September. As of today, I’ve reached only 10% of my goal. Please consider donating to my effort and support this worthwhile cause.

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7 Comments on “Save A Horse, Eat A Donut

  1. Where do I stand? On the edge.. On one side it’s a neat event to watch the various horses doing their thing. But then on the same time, have you ever seen a calf get roped and tied? Poor little guys they squeal and make sand noises. Let along when a cowboy lands on the calf, picks it up by the hooves, flips it and drops it onto its back to tie up the legs.

    On that note, when I was at the Stampede a few years ago I will never forget the Wild Mustang roping event they had. A dozen wild mustangs would be herded into the area and the cowboys had to go and rope one. Well the horses didnt like that too much and started running into each other. One horse ended up on the ground.

    The medics came in, throw up a tarp over the horse, “sedated it” and loaded it into a trail to take it to the paddock to give it an exam. Later that day the Calgary newspaper (the herold perhaps?) mentioned that they actually put the horse down underneath the tarp in front of the spectators. What for… a broken leg? I dont see why they couldn’t set the leg and just let it to pasture sort of thing. Let it just roam free in a field if it will never run again etc… why put it down?

  2. Sorry in advance for swearing, but I fucking hate the Stampede (and all rodeos). It is animal exploitation at it’s worst – testing your ‘roping’ abilities at the price of an animal’s life? That is not entertainment at all. I recently read a blog post about someone trying to decide what they should wear to the Stampede and all I could think of, silently, was that they may as well skin a horse and wear it; same thing to me: also exploitation.

    I wrote about this before and wish I could find the article (I sounded intelligent!) to share with you. Sorry if I sound like a blubbering idiot but this is a subject that makes me so mad I can’t see/think straight.

    Good post Keira. I always like these passionate animal-related ones. 😀

  3. @Tyler – Unfortunately, “sport” horses being euthanized is an all too common occurrence. This is particularly true in horse racing where the health and safety of the horses is penultimate to how much money each of the horses can generate. Click here for a number of examples.

    Once a horse is critically injured, such as a broken limb, even costly veterinary care and therapy is rarely ever successful in bringing the horse back to a level of health as it was before an injury. That said, most in the industry deem the veterinary care far too costly. With no monetary benefit (being that the horse will no longer be able to race) in the foreseeable future, euthanasia is considered to be the most appropriate route to take. It’s basically saying “why bother fixing or setting the horse’s leg if it can’t win money in further races?” – and with that, the decision is made.

    As an extension of that, the slaughter of horses for meat is still legal in Canada. The same can’t be said of the U.S. – America passed a bill in 2006 banning it altogether.

  4. Kay my darling, you are my hero ♥ ♥ ♥ Thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing to light such an important and tragic issue…much love from me and all your furry friends @ the BCSPCA :)

  5. I think it’s a crime to put any living creature in unnecessary jeopardy.

  6. I think the Calgary Humane Center has a great approach to this – they are being much more proactive by getting involved then they would by protesting.

    It is absolutely terrible to hear about the accidents involved around the Calgary Stampede, but I just want to remind you that this week is helping to keep Albertas economy alive – bringing a lot of money in from all around the world to local businesses so that people here can have jobs and live healthier lifestyles. The impact is huge – giving people a chance to survive during these hard times.

    “The Stampede’s economic impact is substantial with park visitors annually spending an estimated $345 million in Alberta. The majority of spending, $300 million, is spent in Calgary supporting local hotels, restaurants, retail shops and other businesses.”

    This certainly doesn’t excuse the animal abuse that is happening, and it really does break my heart to see the accidents happening… but I just thought I would argue the flip side for a change :)
    – the stampede has a lot of positive impact on the community too.

  7. Ashley as a counter to your counterpoint. :-)

    The slave trade brought “positive impacts to the community” too (as long as you weren’t slave that is). I’m sure people back in the day argued that there would be an economic impact, if owning slaves was taken away from them.

    The same with selling animal parts which makes massive amounts of money.

    So it really comes down to what is right and wrong and financial reward should not justify animal abuse.

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