Bad times for cowboys

SCOTT FISHER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Cloverdale's decision to ban calf roping and steer wrestling isn't sitting well with Alberta cowboys.

Canada's fifth-largest rodeo decided to pull the plug on the two major events, as well as team roping and wild cow milking, after a calf was euthanized over the weekend.

The Cloverdale committee, which has been under intense pressure from animal rights activists in recent years, insisted its decision was not based on outside influence.

But timed-event cowboys aren't buying it.

Airdrie's Jeff Chapman, the 2005 Canadian roping champion, said the committee clearly buckled to activists and Surrey's city council.

"If they're not bowing to pressure, why are they cancelling the timed events?" the four-time NFR qualifier said.

"If it's a zebra, it's a zebra. It's not a quarter horse, it's a zebra. It's the loudest person in the room who's going to be heard. (The activists) are trying to be that 800-pound gorilla in the corner and they're not that big."

Calgarian Lee Graves, the 2005 world champion steer wrestler, said he was disappointed with the decision.

"If you want to be the best of the best committees, you have to act like it," Graves said. "React to situations but don't overreact.

"City council had a meeting after the incident with the calf and they were wanting to shut the rodeo down immediately."

Chapman heard the same rumour.

"I thought to myself 'this rodeo brings in over a million dollars,' " Chapman said. "They're not going to cancel a damn thing.

"(The committee) is under a lot of heavy scrutiny out there. But rain, snow or shine, the stands are full with people who love rodeo at that place.

"I was there one day when the protesters were hauled out and the fans booed them.

"You're letting a few people dictate what happens in our way of life and I don't agree with that."

Chapman said Cloverdale might face additional pressure now that interest groups know thay can get their way.

"I think it's a bad situation. If they think that's going to solve their problems, they're way off. They may have just created a bigger one.

"You're talking about narrow-minded people and you're letting them get a foot in the door. It's people who are uneducated about our sport who are throwing stones at us."

Graves, a five-time Canadian champ, said he hopes other committees don't follow suit.

"There is that fear," the eight time NFR qualifyer said.

"If they start it there, where do you stop it? Everybody needs to voice their opinions, that's great.

"But what happens when a buckin' horse jumps out there and breaks his leg. Then they'll jump on that event. What happens when a bull is mis-spurred?

"Rodeo is an extreme sport. Injuries happen. Cowboys get hurt and animals get hurt. That's just the way it goes."

Graves, 36, said he doesn't see other rodeos going to a roughstock-only format.

"I don't think it will affect rodeo in the west because it's strong. It's a part of life out here, our western heritage.

"I don't think it'll affect Alberta or Calgary.

"These rodeos are getting bigger and better.

"It's all those bleeding hearts out there."

Canadian Professional Rodeo Association president Dale Leschiutta said Cloverdale could still be sanctioned by the CPRA under a clause that allows for special events.

"It allows us to look at situations like Cloverdale that don't carry all of the events," Leschiutta said. "It will be reviewed by the board on June 4."

But Leschiutta gave the impression Cloverdale would no longer be a part of the CPRA.


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