During calf roping, a young calf is sent into a ring, sometimes in front of bright lights and often in a noisy environment. A human competitor choosing to take part chases them down on a horse, then tries to prove they can restrain and ‘down’ the calf by the neck with a rope. The calf is then thrown to the ground and their hooves are tied.
Onlookers and veterinarians often describe the violence inflicted on these young and clearly frightened animals as confronting.
Injuries can be caused by the force of lassoing and jerking to a halt, then being thrown, include tearing or stretching of ligaments, disc rupture, internal haemorrhaging to the thymus gland and trachea and subcutaneous tissue damage. Calves can suffer broken legs, even broken necks, and research has shown that even though they get to their feet and leave the arena apparently unharmed, calves can still be suffering from internal haemorrhaging which is not visible without an autopsy. These young animals with soft bones and still-developing bodies, should never be subjected to such harsh treatment.
Calf roping events are already banned in Victoria, South Australia and the ACT because of the stress caused and risk of serious injury to these vulnerable young animals.
Steers are usually required to be roped within 90 seconds. Injuries include bruising, broken limbs and horns, as well as stress caused by brutal handling. Injuries in this event can cause an animal to be killed, which usually happens well out of sight of the crowd.