CALGARY — Officials with the Calgary Stampede are acknowledging that unwanted rodeo horses are sent to an Alberta slaughterhouse for meat that is sold in Europe or Asia.
Stampede officials say the slaughterhouse in Fort Macleod is a destination of last resort for a very few number of the male horses that can’t be trained to buck.
Dr. Greg Evans, a veterinarian with the Stampede, says the measure is taken with about 20 horses a year, or less than five per cent of those trained at the Calgary Stampede Ranch.
He says those are horses that “wouldn’t be suitable for something else and would have to go this route.”
The female horses that aren’t suitable for sport can be put into the Stampede ranch’s breeding program.
The Calgary Humane Society, which usually works closely with the Stampede on animal welfare, says there ought to be a better option.
“We adamantly oppose this practice,” said spokeswoman Christy Thompson. “There are horse rescues in Alberta that I’m sure would help with animals no longer needed.”
But Evans defends the Stampede’s decision, saying bucking horses aren’t typically appropriate as pets.
“Basically, because they’re bred to buck, they’re semi-feral so they’re wilder than the average horse,” he says. “A lot of them, it’s a temperament problem so they’re not going to be comfortable in confinement of any kind.”
The Vancouver Humane Society has long been critical of the Stampede’s practices regarding animals, and spokesman Peter Fricker called the latest news a new low for the industry.
“There is cruelty at the rodeo and now we find out there are also horses being killed just because they’re not fit to entertain a rodeo crowd,” he said.