Rodeo. Yes or No?

The government has come out and said it will not be banning rodeo in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t brought forth any conclusion or agreement between the rodeo enthusiasts and animal welfare activists.

If anything, it seems to have ramped up the rhetoric and animosity even more with both sides claiming the moral high ground.

Michael Laws and Hans Kriek, spokesmen for NZ Rodeo and S.A.F.E respectively, were on breakfast television this last week debating the claim that rodeo is animal cruelty disguised as sport.

Now I’m not going to get into he said/she said details of the antagonistic debate between the two of them and for all I know both Mike and Hans are warm, generous, friendly and enormously engaging people, but the problem is that neither of them comes across as very likable.

As a member of the general public, I’m uninterested in Michael telling me his opinion when I know it costs $25,000 to buy it and I’m even less interested in Hans telling me how we New Zealanders should conduct ourselves.

And let’s stop pretending that this is about rodeo because make no mistake, this is a battle between two opposing worldviews.

It seems to me that Hans' main thrust against farming or any animal use is driven by fairness.

He would argue that jumping on a bull and riding it around when the bull obviously doesn’t seem that keen, is unfair on the bull. The rider gets a choice. The bull doesn’t.

Does he feel the same when a cat catches a mouse and terrifies it for hours?

Does he think the cat is being unfair? Or does he think it is just being a cat?

Now to my mind, you can’t have it both ways.

Either we are all just animals and each species are just doing what they do, in which case Rodeo Bill can no more be criticised for roping a calf than a cat can be criticised for catching and playing with a bird.

Or of course, as Hans seems to feel, we humans are different from animals, with rules and standards around our behavior that other animals don’t and shouldn’t be expected to have.

I find it curious that Hans believes we humans have an obligation to live our lives, not like the natural unfair world of stronger eats weaker that has driven human evolution but in a very unnatural state of fairness that puts moral obligations on us as a species.

Now I am not here to dispute or deny our moral obligations but it seems we can’t really finish the debate until we address the below points.

If we are all just animals doing what we do, how can there even be a debate around rodeos because surely, it’s just animals doing what they do?

But if the human species is different from the animal species and as such should live under different rules, the questions are

What makes us different? What are the rules? Who makes them?

And this is where we get into the murky waters of theology or philosophy but I'm sure we can all agree on one thing with regards to who makes the rules.

It certainly shouldn’t be Hans Kriek.

 - Wayne Perkins

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