Rodeo plan for Montreal’s 375th stirs controversy

A bull riding cowboy holds tight as the bull lunges airborne, Oregon, 1916. Photograph by Miller Photo Co., National GeographicA bull riding cowboy holds tight as the bull lunges airborne, Oregon, 1916. Photograph by Miller Photo Co., National Geographic

Opposition is growing to the NomadFest Urban Rodeo, planned as part of the celebrations of Montreal’s 375th anniversary. It is scheduled to take place August 24 to 27 at the Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port.

Twenty-three animal protection groups have spoken out against the event locally, nationally and internationally, including the Montreal SPCA, Vancouver Humane Society, Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, and Canadian Horse Defense Coalition. More than 600 veterinarians and animal technicians have presented a petition to the City opposing the festival’s animal events.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has stated, “The CVMA accepts the use of animals in entertainment only when the animals’ physical, social and behavioural needs are being met. The CVMA opposes activities, contests or events that have a high probability of causing injury, distress or illness.”

In a letter to Mayor Denis Coderre, veterinarian Jean-Jacques Kona-Boun says the rodeo does not honour Montreal but insults it, because “the rodeo is founded on violence and the stress and fear it engenders in animals.”

Maxime Lefebvre, NomadFest’s producer, has said that rodeo animals can cost up to $50,000 and when you work with an animal that expensive, “you won’t hurt that beast, you will cherish that beast.”

But Kona-Boun disputes the industry’s claim that rodeo participants keep their animals in good health with a minimal chance of injury. “It is important to understand that a state of good health before the contests, even following a medical examination by a veterinarian, absolutely does not signify that suffering is not inflicted.”  Kona-Boun says even the absence of visible injuries does not exclude internal lesions and psychological suffering.

The grocery chain Loblaws has withdrawn its sponsorship in February, saying the event does not reflect its role as a trusted food brand retailer. “The rodeo is not one of the events we are supporting,” a spokesperson said.

The Montreal SPCA says it is “appalled” by the proposed event and disapproves of all rodeo events using animals. “A rodeo is solely for the purpose of entertainment. There is no doubt it causes intense stress, fear and pain to animals,” says Sophie Gaillard, lawyer for the SPCA’s animal advocacy department. “We are completely outraged that this is happening in Montreal.”

The Montreal SPCA has drafted a statement against the rodeo events at Festival Western de St- Tite, charged with running the NomadFest rodeo.

“We are firmly opposed to the rodeo that is part of the Festival Western de St-Tite. Rodeo events (which include the calf roping event – where calves are lassoed by their legs and thrown to the ground) subjects the animals to unnecessary stress and suffering for the pure purpose of so called ‘entertainment.’” Calf roping is not part of the planned Montreal rodeo but is a staple of the yearly festival.

Coderre defends the proposed rodeo on the grounds that it is entrusted to the experts who run the Festival Western St. Tite for whom, he says, animal well-being is a priority.

Six rodeo events are scheduled for the festival, including bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, barrel race, rescue race, and exchange rider race.

The festival organizers says that events will enable visitors of all ages “to be immersed in the world of country in an urban setting.” It plans to erect a reconstructed interactive village with a general store, barber shop, and country, bluegrass, and folk music, and a dancefloor.

8 Comments on "Rodeo plan for Montreal’s 375th stirs controversy"

  1. Anne Streeter | April 17, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Reply

    Thank you for this. It sums up the situation well. Rodeo is not a humane event, no matter where or when it takes place! It is particularly out of place in the historic sector of Old Montreal. Shame on Mayor Coderre for allowing this to happen.

  2. Georges Dupras | April 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Reply

    This is not the first time that Mayor Coderre has undermined all the specialists in the area of animal care. He has flip-flopped on the carriage horse industry,blatantly ignored professional advice on the pitbull issue and now thumbs his nose at those, who oppose the rodeo, a throwback to another time which does not reflect Montreal nor Quebec culture.

    Regrettably Mr. Coderre has become an embrassement to this City.

  3. Sandra Brown | April 19, 2017 at 9:57 am | Reply

    It makes my heart ache. There was a time when humans were put on public display, too, for the amusement of spectators. We evolved away from that. When will enough of us evolve in the direction of realising that sentient animals deserve respect and protection from our baser animal selves too? No animals should be used in this manner. And how does a rodeo which creates harm and stress to living beings celebrate our 375th? Why not have dog fights or cock fights at the same time!

  4. I’m very glad to see this article and the gathering opposition to the rodeo. Kudos to Loblaws for withdrawing support!

    There should be no doubt that rodeos are inherently abusive to animals.

    Deep internal organ bruising, hemorrhaging, bone fractures, ripped tendons, and torn ligaments and muscles, are all part of the rodeo experience for the unwilling animal participants. The psychological damage no less significant.

    I urge everyone to contact Mayor Coderre and express their opposition to harming animals in the name of celebrating Montreal’s birthday.

  5. Louise Slattery | April 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Reply

    It is clear that rodeos are not part of Quebec or Montreal culture. Also, animal welfare experts say rodeos are inhumane. What does it take to convince Mayor Coderre that a rodeo is a bad idea when he ignores the opinions of animal welfare experts? I will not support any event that mistreats animals.

  6. Jean Le Marquand | April 19, 2017 at 8:48 pm | Reply

    There is no way to make a rodeo humane; the very fact that these animals are transported is stressful enough. Add to that the stress of being chased down by horses and men and thrown to the ground should be enough to convince anyone with any sense of decency to want to boycott this inhumane and archaic event.

  7. Sandra Brown | May 2, 2017 at 10:25 pm | Reply

    I just thought of another brilliant idea for Mayor Coderre. Since the bulls will already be here, why not give the bulls a shot at us. We could have the running of the bulls in the street, like in Pamplona! How gory would that be?!

  8. Kathleen Greenfield | June 6, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Reply

    Perhaps the rodeo planners and supporters should follow the example of Cirque du Soleil and have humans perform instead of animals. Humans have a choice.

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