|Animal rights activists want to see chuckwagon racing banned after three horses died at the Calgary Stampede rodeo.
Three horses were killed after a horrendous chuckwagon crash on Saturday, July 14. One horse died in front of thousands of spectators after suffering a broken pelvis that punctured a major artery, and two others had to be euthanized after the race due to injuries. Chuckwagon driver Tyler Helmig was hospitalized due to injuries suffered in the crash.
Michael Alvarez-Toye, spokesperson for the Calgary Animal Rights Coalition, says he felt "sick" when he saw the crash on TV. He points out that horses die virtually every year in chuckwagon racing, and questions how the event can still be justified.
"If its an accident and its a one-off thats one thing. Its a tragedy. You make sure it doesnt happen again. When you know it happens year after year its no longer an accident. Its intentional. It has to be dealt with completely and utterly. You stop it," he says.
"It was something created for sheer spectacle, sheer audience thrills to sell tickets and make money. These animals lives are wasted. Theyre subjected to the most grueling and riskiest of lives," he says. "Youve got massive contraptions with all kinds of riders galloping along beside them and its push come to shove similar to Formula One or any kind of car racing, but youre talking about (horse) lives, not steel."
Alvarez-Toye is angry that thousands of people turn out to watch the chuckwagon racing every day of the Stampede despite the danger the horses face.
Calgary Humane Society peace officer Joan Treich was at the chuckwagon race when the horses died. She says no charges were laid under Albertas Animal Protection Act because no animals were intentionally mistreated, and vets were on hand immediately to try and treat the horses.
However, Treich says the humane society is opposed to chuckwagon racing and other rodeo events where animals are used for entertainment and are "put at risk."
She says seeing the crash in person was "a very traumatic scene."
"I would say with the chuckwagons, weve seen more death and injury at that event than any other," she says.
Treich says the Stampede has tried to make changes in the past to make the sport safer and the organization is "co-operative and very open to our feedback."
Lindsey Galloway, manager of corporate communications for the Calgary Stampede, says the organization was "greatly troubled" by the July 14 accident and has initiated a "major review" of chuckwagon rules.
"Obviously were putting on a spectacle. Were entertaining the world but Calgarians and the Calgary Stampede arent interested in a dangerous sport that endangers animals," he says.
After a review, the Stampede concluded that chuckwagon driver Kelly Sutherland drove his team too aggressively towards the rail and towards another chuckwagon team, causing the accident. Sutherland was suspended from competing in the Sunday chuckwagon race.
"Were still considering further action," says Galloway.
However, the Stampede has no plans to ban the event.
"Its an essential part of the unique western spectacle that makes up the Calgary Stampede," says Galloway.