TORONTO (Reuters) - Two daily newspapers in Calgary, Alberta, are under fire from an animal rights group after they refused to publish an advertisement calling for a ban on the calf-roping event at the city’s world famous Stampede rodeo.
The Vancouver Humane Society said on Monday the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, the two daily newspapers published in the Western Canadian city, declined to run an ad that showed a photo of a cowboy about to throw a roped calf to the ground. The calf is labeled “baby” and the cowboy is labeled “bully.”
The society accused the papers of behaving unethically and denying its right to free speech.
“We feel it’s a duty of a newspaper to provide a public forum for speech and dissent and in this case those newspapers have chosen to censor dissent,” said Peter Fricker, a spokesman for the humane society.
The Calgary Herald, owned by Canwest Global Communications, declined immediate comment on the society’s charge while the Humane Society said the Calgary Sun, owned by Quebecor Inc said it would not run the ad because it disagreed with the opinion.
The Calgary Sun could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Vancouver Humane Society opposes calf roping and wants it dropped from all Canadian rodeos because the age of the cow, three to four months, makes it particularly cruel, said Fricker. The event requires a cowboy to rope a calf that’s been given a head start and immobilize it by binding its legs together.
“Most people believe in kindness to animals and no one can say calf-roping is kind. It’s abuse of a young, vulnerable animal,” said Fricker.
The Calgary Stampede, which starts on Friday, bills itself as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” and its rodeo events are among the most prestigious in North America. However the rodeo, which features bull and bronco riding as well as other roping events and chuckwagon races, has attracted criticism from some animals-rights groups because animals are sometimes injured.
The Stampede says it works with local humane and animal care societies to ensure the safety of livestock used in its events.
“We care passionately about our animals. And we work with the Alberta SPCA and the Calgary Humane Society to enhance our animal safety measures during the Stampede,” said Stampede spokesman Doug Fraser.
In 2007 the Vancouver Humane Society successfully pressured the Cloverdale Rodeo in Surrey, British Columbia to eliminate roping events.