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Update: 7:38 p.m. Friday, April 7:

The Cal Poly rodeo team has cancelled the rodeo events Friday evening due to rain. The protest is now planned for April 8. The Facebook event does not indicate a time or place for the protest.

Original post, Thursday, April 6:

For some, rodeos reunite people with western culture and the old way of cowboy play. For others, rodeos paint a darker image, playing down the thrills of the recreational event and instead representing the mistreatment of animals.

Cal Poly is hosting its 77th annual rodeo on April 7 and 8 in Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Some students are planning to protest animal abuse outside of the stadium on April 7 at 6:30 p.m., according to the Facebook event.

Agricultural systems management freshman Sierra Halberstadt will attend the protest because she thinks rodeos mistreat animals.

“The difference between a human and animal hurt in a situation is that people participating get to choose the risk of being injured or even killed, but the animals don’t get to have a say in their outcome of the event,” Halberstadt said.

The Cal Poly rodeo includes nine events split into two categories: timed events, which includes barrel racing, team roping and tie-down roping, and other events like bull riding, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding.

Halberstadt said an animal is more likely to get hurt in the event of calf roping when a calf is tied up in the quickest time possible. 

However, Cal Poly rodeo team member Jaycee Spence doesn’t see it as hurtful toward the calf.

“People think it’s [the rope] hurting them but in reality, you can’t jerk the calf down and there’s a penalty and a fine,” she said. “You have to treat the animal with respect…the rodeo coaches will disqualify us if they see mistreatment of animals.”

Rodeos, among other events, like agricultural exhibitions and state and county fairs are exempt from the Public Law, 91-579, the Animal Welfare Act, which states that animals must be treated humanely during commerce, exhibition, experimentation and transport, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s website. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Cal Poly rodeo animals are mistreated.

In fact, the Cal Poly rodeo team does its best to ensure the welfare of animals, rodeo team coach Ben Londo said.

“[The animals’] safety is as important as our own and we incorporate as many steps and procedures to ensure safety,” Londo said. “Our number one goal is to create a good show and stand by safety of the contestant and animal.”

Cal Poly rodeo team takes cautionary measures in caring for its animals by hosting an on-site veterinarian the day of the rodeo, Londo said. The veterinarian checks the animal both before and after an animal’s performance to make sure it has not been injured.

For animal science sophomore Spence, the rodeo is more than a competition, it’s a relationship with the trainer and the horse.

“Even though you’re there to get fastest time ,you have to have strong connection with your horse,” Spence said.

Specifically, she addressed that rodeo practice time isn’t limited to training, but should also be treated as quality time spent caring for the horse.

“If you don’t have a connection with your horse then you won’t be as successful rodeo team,” Spence said. “You won’t be able to work well and a lot of it is working on horsemanship skills outside of the rodeo arena.” 

Correction: The original article said the rodeo was on April 6 and 7. The article has been corrected to say April 7 and 8. 

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