The peer-reviewed paper, published in Animals, finds that because of the harm calf roping inflicts on the young animals and the suffering experienced by calves in rodeos, these animals need greater protection under state and territory animal welfare legislation.
Calf roping involves a calf as young as four months being chased by a rider, lassoed around the neck, jerked off their feet and often crashing to the ground before having their legs forcefully bound with rope. It is common at many rodeos and legal in most states and territories.*
RSPCA Australia Senior Scientific Officer Dr Di Evans, a co-author of the paper, said that the case for legislative change was clear.
“Calves are sentient creatures who can experience pain and fear,” said Dr Evans. “Sentience is largely accepted as the reason that animal welfare matters and it’s the reason we have animal welfare legislation.”
“So, the fact that calf roping continues to subject these sentient animals to such cruelty, and yet remains legal in most states and territories, is entirely out of step with the scientific findings as well as public opinion.
“It’s no wonder calf roping and rodeos in general are so controversial, and the practice has been subject to recent legal challenges overseas, including in New Zealand and Canada.”
Dr Evans said that calf roping causes fear, pain and stress to the animals involved.
“Calf roping is a terrifying experience – a young calf is literally running for their life with many bellowing and trying to escape when lassoed.
“The science also shows that calf roping risks serious injury, including damage to the windpipe from the lasso, bruising and broken ribs from being violently yanked off their feet and forced to the ground, and choking from the tightened rope around their neck and being dragged along the ground.
“Given this, there’s a very strong case for animal welfare laws to be strengthened to ban this so-called sport, as is already the case in some states.”
The paper is open-access and can be viewed here.
*Calf roping is legal in Queensland, NSW, NT, Tasmania and WA. It is effectively banned in South Australia and Victoria because of a minimum body weight of 200kg for cattle. Rodeo events are prohibited under animal welfare legislation in the ACT.