Treatment of protesters at rodeo 'not acceptable'

The New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association (NZRCA) is condemning the treatment of protesters at yesterday's Mid-Northern event saying it does not align with the values of rodeo.

Six anti-rodeo activists bought tickets and entered the Mid-Northern grounds at Kokopu Block Road yesterday.

Mid-Northern club member Dianna Bradshaw said the club had a strict no high-definition cameras policy, which had been in place for over a year, and the group had already been asked twice not to film. She said when the activists began filming for a third time some spectators and cowboys became upset that they were not respecting the rules.

NZRCA president Lyal Cocks said he could understand rodeo members' frustrations.

"I do understand from footage that some of the contestants or the people involved in the Mid-Northern rodeo, through sheer frustration I expect, through misrepresentation and the continued attacks on rodeo, basically lowered their behaviour to that of the protest movement and interacted with them which is not the answer and not acceptable to the NZRCA."

He said this did not mean he condoned the behaviour.

"I'm not justifying or condoning it but I understand their frustration and that's not the way to deal with it.

"I'm acknowledging that the behaviour was not acceptable. It's not what rodeo's all about."

He said rodeo had problems in the past with altered footage being shared on social media which misrepresented the sport, which was why Mid-Northern had in place the high definition camera ban.

"We've tried to deal with it through the authorities but it's not an easy thing to deal with."

He also said allowing people to take their own photos made it hard for the professional photographers that were there.

"We have accredited professional photographers at our rodeos and they go through the process of accreditation. If you allow everyone to come in with [cameras] it dilutes their ability to carry out their role."

Mr Cocks said protesters had a right to protest but was concerned that media coverage had been unbalanced.

"Once again we have an incident like this overshadowing a great day of rodeo ... it's very unbalanced."

He said he would "most probably" be contacting those identifiable in the footage, directly.

A Facebook group called 'Support New Zealand Rodeos' has posted a message "humbly apologising" for the incident yesterday.

The message said the treatment of protesters was "appalling".

"We are deeply sorry that you had to withstand insults and terrible language by a group of people who frankly should know better. The majority of the rest of NZRCA competitors who have now seen this video and photos will be feeling the same as myself - deeply embarrassed to have people like this within our sport, sick to the stomach that our own people could speak to you like that and deeply shamed that this has occurred."

Mr Cocks said the group was not directly linked to the Association but it was run by members of the rodeo community and he supported the message.

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