Posted on July 16, 2010
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.
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.
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?