Calgary Stampede v. Vancouver Humane Society

The Vancouver Humane Society attempted to submit an ad that offered an alternative view to the popular Calgary Stampede and Rodeo. The Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun both refused to publish the ad.

You can see the Vancouver Humane Society's ad here. In it, a "cowboy" takes down a 3-mos old calf in the "tie-down" roping event in which a frightened calf is released into an arena, followed by a "cowboy" on a horse. The calf is roped by the neck and three of his legs are tied. Now I don't know about you, but when I'm running full force away from something scary (which I try and avoid), I think it would be quite painful to have a rope flung around my neck (or any part of my body) and yanked forcefully back. I could be a secret masochist and really like that sort of thing, but doubtful.

According to the Vancouver Humane Society, one of the newspapers refused because, in their opinion, they did not agree with the ad. Huh? Since when do you have to agree with an ad that, for all intents and purposes is hardly extreme or over the top, to publish it in your newspaper? Why bother with an opinion section or letters to the editor if dissenting opinion isn't a viable option? The ad in question doesn't show gory images. It doesn't mention the Calgary Stampede specifically. It does not do much but offer a dissenting opinion, that maybe there is something wrong with rodeos and hey! here's an example.

The Calgary Sun has posted this editorial on why they chose not to run the ad. Poor taste. That's their reason. Wait, that's their second reason. Their primary reason is that the Vancouver Humane Society is located in, well, British Columbia which, while in Canada, is not in Alberta. It's apparently a West Coast versus Midwest feud that us, being in California, totally understand. I mean, hello, we feud with ourselves (Southern Californians remain baffled as to why us Northern Californians refuse to add "the" before Highway 80 or Highway 5). So we can get the "whole outsider" thing (we even shun insiders!). That isn't a valid reason to offer a dissenting opinion, even if that dissenting opinion comes from fellow Canadians next door or Fresno, in our case. Yes, perhaps 85% of Calgarians love the Stampede but the Stampede is an international affair and maybe, if people knew how cruel some events in the Stampede are by their very nature, they would be less inclined to spend their money in Calgary.

And that, I think, is the REAL issue - economics. The Calgary Stampede is huge. When I say huge, I mean huge. It's considered an integral aspect of Calgary tourism revenue. Over the course of ten days, more than a million people will visit from dozens of countries. That's big tourist bucks for Calgary. Or it could be that this event is heralded as The Most Important Cultural Event for Calgary Ever. I don't know whether to be embarrassed or bemused on behalf of Canadians everywhere that culture is being defined as 2 million dollars in overall prize money (thanks to the federal government), strapping belts onto genitals of wild horses, bringing down 3-mos-old calves or big belts and wranglers. Perhaps that is unfair - after all, we view cattle and horses as animals worthy of respect, compassion and the right to exhibit their natural behaviors in a natural setting. No rodeo can offer that. We have a fundamentally different view on animals than rodeos.

For the farmed animals, that is a good thing. We commend the Vancouver Humane Society for doing what shelters within Alberta refused to do - speak up for the animals.

The Calgary Sun and Herald both accept letters to the editor. Accept probably being defined differently by the two newspapers.

But if you're a brave soul (and I know you are), then write a letter questioning the ethics of denying an ad based on "economics" and "fear of the outside"...

Calgary Sun:
Calgary Herald


Janice Gillett said...

And since when has any newspapaer gave a rats patooies on what was moral to print or not. What a crock of bull manure! Me thinks someone is on the take at this newspaper...

Anonymous said...

That's really too bad and somewhat frightening. This is another example of why it's important to support a diverse and robust newspaper & media industry. When the power of the print/video/voice becomes concentrated in too few hands, alternate viewpoints are easily stifled.

You know, Pro Bull Riding (PBR) is huge in some parts of the U.S.A. The blog writer's comments suggest to me an interesting PSA to run in those markets: how 'bout a video showing a rodeo area with a cowboy on a horse chasing down and roping people as described (for dramatic effect they could use "moms" and "grandparents"), or someone trussing up dad's "you know whats" and sending him out into the ring with a person on his back. Wonder if any media outlet here would be courageous enough to show it...