Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Australia appears to have ignored a request from RSPCA South Australia to not use spurs and flank straps on its bulls at its event this Saturday at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. (PBR Australia has previously stated they do not use electric prods.)
RSPCA South Australia’s Animal Welfare Advocate Dr Rebekah Eyers has described as “nonsense” PBR Australia’s claims that flank straps make bulls perform less erratically and therefore help them to avoid injury, and that spurs are dull and used mainly to ‘help a rider maintain his balance’.
Scientific evidence shows that the routine tightening of flank straps around a bull’s sensitive underbelly prior to release from the chute causes discomfort and sometimes pain that provokes bulls to buck more violently. The purpose of attaching metal spurs to the riders’ boots is also to make bulls buck more violently, with riders earning more points for strong spurring action.
“The whole idea behind the use of aversive equipment like spurs and flank straps is to provoke extreme bucking to entertain a crowd,” Dr Eyers said.
An increasing number of veterinarians now oppose the use of flank straps and spurs in rodeo events, and the UK and Australia’s A.C.T. have both banned rodeos. In the US, a growing number of jurisdictions have either prohibited, or are in the process of prohibiting (under local ordinances), electric shock prods, spurs and flank straps.
“Cattle are prey animals, and having a rider on their backs spurring them in the sides is akin to being under attack from a predator,” Dr Eyers said.
“Bull-riding ignores Australian legal guidelines for cattle welfare which state that cattle should be handled quietly and calmly to minimise stress.”
Adelaide Entertainment Centre management responded to a request from RSPCA South Australia not to allow the use of spurs and flank straps on the bulls by advising RSPCA to speak directly with PBR Australia. Unlike other businesses that profit from animal-based performances, such as Trip Advisor, the AEC does not include animal welfare within its corporate social responsibility policies.
RSPCA South Australia is now calling on the community to recognise the animal welfare issues associated with this outdated form of entertainment and to boycott this event.
“It is very disturbing that in 2018 South Australia’s premier entertainment facility still thinks it’s acceptable to stage this event, despite knowing the scientifically proven negative impact it has on the animals involved,” Dr Eyers said.
“This is not about whether these bulls are well fed and generally cared for as they’re trucked from venue to venue.
“Our main concerns centre around what happens to these bulls inside the arena.”
Last year, a bull called Crime Scene broke its leg and was forced to walk from the arena instead of being euthanased in situ, a decision by PBR Australia organisers that was not consistent with best practice treatment of a bull with a catastrophic injury.
A bull also broke its leg at a Rockhampton rodeo practice session in March, with footage of the incident (witnessed by students from a nearby Catholic all-boys college who were participating in the session) posted online.
 Expert opinion regarding rodeo events, provided by the Registered Association of Veterinarians for Animal Protection http://www.sharkonline.org/images/rodeo/rodeovetsopinion.pdf.