A couple of days ago, three horses were killed, and one rather seriously injured in equine terms, at the Calgary Stampede. In the last few years, a total of 50 horses have died at the Calgary Stampede, most notably because of the chuckwagon races held there annually. Whether in response to the backlash from animal-rights activists or out of simple decency, the organizers of Edmonton’s Capital Ex have opted to not include chuckwagon races in this year’s event. I, for one, am greatly relieved on behalf of the horses and the spectators who would actually feel something for the plight of the horses as they fell horribly to their deaths.
The argument for such events has always been “tradition and culture.” The proponents of this argument fail to recognize that “tradition” and “culture” have been to blame for many of the human race’s uglier moments in that species’ history.
I am originally from Newfoundland where many people still regard the clubbing of helpless baby seals as traditional and cultural. I, as a Newfoundlander, have no taste for such traditions or culture and hope that one day someone with the power to preside will see that this treacherous exercise is, if nothing else, pointless. In fact, depending on the company around me, I am usually somewhat reluctant to admit that I’m a Newfoundlander on the basis that many of “my people” support this inarguably cruel practice.
Going further back, it could be said that public hangings, torture and beheadings were also culturally traditional. While I would likely, if put to the test, support this particular practice where it concerned anyone inclined to mercilessly club a baby seal or participate in a rodeo, I do not actually think it should be a widespread practice allowed to continue simply on the argument that it is culturally and traditionally acceptable.
Traditions, like public hangings, were meant to be broken in favour of more evolved and humane methods, or eliminated altogether. Perhaps the better question would be if your culture was such a rich tapestry of activities, why does it not include something which by today’s standards would NOT include the unnecessary killing and harm to animals? As for the clubbing of innocent baby seals, thanks to global warming and all its implications, it will not be very long before any of us have absolutely no need whatsoever of fur coats of any kind, let alone the thick, snowy white coats of newborn harp seals. What happens to your traditional culture then? Would it not then be FORCED to evolve as the rest of us have chosen to find a different and hopefully better way of expressing ourselves and our history? Why wait?
Go and chew on that awhile, and in the meantime I will continue to do my level best to boycott the Calgary Stampede, rodeos, and any other activity, event or product which involves the inhumane and unnecessary exploitation of animals for the culturally traditional sake of human entertainment.