31 May 2017

Warning for rodeo cowboy caught electric-shocking calves

From Checkpoint, 5:21 pm on 31 May 2017

A rodeo cowboy who was caught abusing animals earlier this year has escaped formal punishment, in a decision animal welfare activists say is ludicrous.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) opened an investigation in January after Checkpoint with John Campbell broadcast footage showing a man shocking calves with an electric prodder at the Mid Northern Rodeo near Whangarei.

Cows can be shocked, but shocking calves is against the law.

Earlier this week the cowboy was issued a formal warning. SAFE had called for a prosecution and fine, saying because he had been involved in rodeos for 35 years he should have known better.

MPI animal welfare compliance manager Chris Rodwell said the offending was at the low end.

"He goes on notice that he's an offender, and usually that's enough to do what you're trying to achieve, which is for him not to do it again."

Mr Rodwell said mitigating factors included that the man was "elderly", had no criminal history and shocking young calves was on the "low level of offending".

But Anti-Rodeo Action member Lynn Charlton, who recorded the footage, said MPI was weak.

"It's what we expected really - MPI are pretty gutless when it comes to dealing with the rodeo community," she said.

"There's always a reason why people are not getting consequences for animal abuse."

Rodeo Cowboys Association spokesperson Michael Laws said the man did not realise what he was doing was against the law, as he thought the calves were of age - older than 12 months.

As well as prompting an investigation, the footage was viewed hundreds of thousands of times online. It led to national companies including LJ Hooker, Ray White, Harcourts, Placemakers and Meridian Energy withdrawing rodeo sponsorships across New Zealand, and vowing not to sponsor any in the future.

The cowboy did not respond to requests for comment.