Rodeo boycott doesn't deter Gisborne crowds

By Talisa Kupenga

More than 1000 spectators attended the annual Summer Gisborne Rodeo today, despite calls by animal advocacy group SAFE to boycott the event. A SAFE spokesperson says the rodeo is bullying for entertainment but riders here disagree.

It was a stellar day with stellar talent at the Gisborne Rodeo.

"It's just an adrenaline rush, back in the younger days I always did it. My father was brought up on it and so are we," says Former Rodeo competitor Richie Waru.

"It's just the riding the fun the way they buck around its pretty cool,” says Rodeo Fan Marlene Williams,

"The family spirit down here, just come here every year to relax, it's the start of summer for us,” says Rodeo champion Dion Aupouri.

Animal advocacy group SAFE called for a boycott of the event but that didn't deter the crowds.

SAFE Animal Advocacy spokesperson Mandy Carter says, “They are having people jumping on them, wrestling to the ground and roped around the neck.  It's going to be extremely scary, distressing and at times painful.  And all this just for the sake of a day out and for the rodeo organisers to make some money and have some fun at playing cowboy.  Whichever way you look at it that's simply not right and it's time that it's gone."

Rodeo Champion Clarry Church says, “We're under strict laws and rules so we've got to abide by them, especially these days with all the people that want to ban it. You know, we just stick to our code of welfare we sort of can't go wrong."

“All these horses around here mainly get ridden once a year so after this one days ride they get let back out into the paddocks again,” says Waru.

More than 200 competitors and 100 stock took to the ring for the event.

"It's like a dance, they're like a dance partner in many ways. They love bucking people off it's like a victory to them really," says Church.

The next rodeo will be in Ōpōtiki tomorrow.