Calgary newspapers afraid to criticize rodeo

    Vancouver Humane Society's call for ban on calf-roping lassoed

    VANCOUVER, June 29 /CNW/ - The Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun newspapers
have refused to print an advertisement calling for a ban on calf-roping, a
controversial rodeo event due to take place during this week's Calgary
Stampede. The Herald refused to give a reason for the rejection and the Sun
said it did not share the ad's opinion so would not run it.
    The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), which submitted the ad, says the
rejections are unethical and a denial of free speech. VHS says it did
everything within reason to accommodate the Herald's sensitivities around the
Calgary Stampede, including agreeing to a request to remove all references to
the Stampede in the ad. But the Herald even rejected the revised version,
which referred only to calf-roping and rodeos in general. The Sun rejected the
ad within an hour of receiving it.
    "We bent over backwards to meet the Herald's concerns but it became clear
they were unwilling to allow any criticism of rodeo. This is an outrageous
denial of free speech," said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker. He said the ad,
which had been checked by VHS's lawyers, was fair comment, inoffensive and in
good taste.
    The text of the ad reads: "It's a basic human instinct to protect the
young. And not just our own. Whether it's puppies, kittens, cubs or calves,
their vulnerability speaks to us all. Well, some of us. Every year rodeos
subject three-month-old calves to fear, pain and stress - all in the name of
entertainment. No way to treat a baby. It's time to ban calf-roping."
    The ad shows a photo of a cowboy about to throw a roped calf to the
ground. The calf is labelled "baby" and the cowboy is labelled "bully." An
image of the rejected ad is available at:
    Fricker said the ad was intended to appeal to Calgarians' compassion.
"Most people believe in kindness to animals and no one can say calf-roping is
kind. It's abuse of a young, vulnerable animal," he said, "Even rodeo fans
gasp when the calf hits the end of the rope."
    VHS has formally called on the Stampede to ban the event, but organizers
have refused to make any changes. In 2007, the Cloverdale Rodeo eliminated
calf-roping and three other roping events after a long campaign by VHS. The
society says Cloverdale's country fair has continued to be popular without the
events, drawing record crowds this year.

For further information:

For further information: Peter Fricker, projects and communications
director - (604) 266-9744, Cell: (604) 603-5401; Debra Probert, executive
director - (604) 266-9744, Cell: (778) 994-9744

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