Durban - A rodeo went ahead in a small Free State town earlier this month, despite the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) obtaining a warrant to stop the event amid claims that bulls were being mistreated.
The NSPCA has accused the police of being afraid to enforce the warrant while the organisers have denied claims that animals were abused.
The warrant, issued at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court, stated the rodeo at Dewetsdorp, 70km from Bloemfontein, could only proceed if the organisers obtained the required Performing Animals Protection Act licence, and also provided certain conditions were met, such as no bucking straps or spurs to be used on the animals.
A bucking strap is used to encourage the horse or bull to kick out straighter and higher when it bucks.
NSPCA senior inspector, Grace de Lange, said they served the warrant on the rodeo organisers on March 15, the day of the event.
De Lange said she insisted that police in Dewetsdorp enforce the warrant, but to no avail. She claimed the duty officer, Constable Neo Nthuba, was unwilling to act and that he had allegedly said: “I don’t want to deal with 1 500 angry farmers on Monday.”
De Lange claimed there had been cruelty at the event.
“Bulls had their tails twisted, and on one occasion sand was kicked into the face of a bull. One bull was dragged out of the arena by a rope around his neck and another bull escaped and was never found.”
Nthuba said when police arrived the show had already started.
“I tried to call my station commander and he said he did not have enough manpower to stop the event. There were only four on-duty police officers.”
The station commander referred the Daily News to Lieutenant-Colonel AA Wrensch, Free State SAPS spokeswoman, who said the warrant was obtained by the NSPCA on March 3, but not “brought to the attention of the Dewetsdorp police until the day when the rodeo was already taking place. Only then did the NSPCA demand that the police intervene and stop the rodeo”.
Wrensch said in such situations when it was too late to stop an event, “the police monitor the situation and identify criminal actions taking place and then open cases against individuals with regard to these”.
She said the NSPCA had opened a case under the Animal Protection Act and for contempt of court. Koos Dippenaar, the chief organiser of the rodeo, denied the claims made by the NSPCA.
“I don’t abuse animals and take me to court if you want,” he said. “The bull that escaped returned to its herd.”
He said their rodeo animals were well treated, properly fed and watered, and that there had been a veterinarian at the event to look after their welfare.
Dippenaar, also the founder of the South African Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association, claimed De Lange had a vendetta against him.
Another event organiser who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals said: “There isn’t a law against rodeo riding, there is a law against using spurs in rodeo riding and there were no spurs being used during the rodeo.”
Meanwhile, the South African Veterinary Association has called for rodeos to be halted until a system to regulate them has been put in place.
“We would propose that rodeos in the interim be classified as high risk events until all events are regulated and that a veterinarian must be present at these events,” the association said in a statement on its website.
“Furthermore, that all events must be stopped until there is a responsible governing body in place with a well-developed set of rules and regulations that can be enforced and used by the responsible veterinarian to evaluate the welfare and risk at these events.”
Rudolph Jackson of the Animal Anti- Cruelty League said: “Rodeo riding isn’t illegal, but welfare organisations find it to be highly unethical.”
l While rodeos may be promoted as “rough-and-tough exercises of human skill and courage”, in reality they are nothing more than “manipulative displays of human domination over animals”, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) believe.
According to Peta, what began in the 1800s as a contest of skill among cowboys has become a show motivated by greed and big profits.
They say that animals are tortured for the pleasure of crowds, by performers who use a host of instruments like electric prods, spurs and bucking straps.
“The flank, or ‘bucking’ strap or rope, is tightly cinched around the animals’ abdomens, which causes them to buck vigorously to try to rid themselves of the torment,” the organisation says on its website.
They said experts had discovered that bucking horses developed back problems from the repeated pounding they took from the cowboys. Horses also are prone to leg injuries caused by the breakdown in tendons.