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Is the Sport of Calf Roping Humane? Essay

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Updated: Oct 11th, 2021


To put the sport of calf roping into the ethical mirror is akin to pitching the animal welfare philosophy against the animal rights philosophy. While the latter posits that humans have an innate responsibility to use animals for clothing, food, research, educations, recreation, sport, and even companionship, the latter is in total disagreement by rejecting any use of animals for anything whether humane or not. While both parties advocate for the humane treatment of animals, the divide is more pronounced on the purpose of such animals under the care of humanity.


Your hand is pounding, this is the moment you have waited for and spent countless hours training for. With your horse at the far end corner, your eyes are set on the barrier at the opening. The calf secluded in the chute only serves to make your heart race even faster. As the signal comes, the gate opens and with practiced moves performed in an unpredictable environment, you smoothly swing into action. A few feet behind the calf you calculate the seconds before throwing the rope around the neck of the calf while the other rope is held in the mouth. If the throw is magnificent and the calf is held back, the underbelly is the next target. As you grab the front legs then lift the calf off the ground in a show of practiced masculinity, the score comes your way and the whole magnitude that had earlier on waited with bated breath joins in the deafening applause; the thrill unimaginable!. That is calf roping; a beautiful, hilarious, and unpredictable sport. These marvelous historical ranching kills have been passed on from generation to generation. However, this thrill is under attack from animal rights activists.

The thrill of any sport lies not in the expected moves but the hilarious moments when all spectators wait with bated breath to catch a glimpse of the defining moment in victory. Ideally, such moments are devoid of any sense of conscious control on the extent of the thrill but rather the effects of that split moment of action are definitive of the beauty of sport. Imagine a sport where everybody understands at knows the split-second reaction with vivid alacrity, where would the beauty of such a sport be? Sports are instruments discovered by mankind to help release the soul from the pangs of everyday anxieties such as work, bills, and the children. Sports provide that supreme moment when not only the body but also the soul and the mind are incomplete resolution and rest. It, therefore, follows that despite every struggle that may be put in place to earn the extra dollars for a better life, such a life might not exist when all the thrilling episodes are obliterated by animal rights and legislation.

Human beings possess the sole onus of using the God-given natural resources for their benefit. So long as such resources are used sparingly and with obedience to sustainable development principles, then there should be no cause of alarm over the use of calves in generating the thrilling sensation that the calf roping sport provides. Animals used for calf roping get preferential treatment in terms of diet as well as getting medical attention at the slightest sign of stress. This treatment is not available to other animals that do not participate in this sport. Moreover, what then would animals be used for apart from just rearing them off in wonderful environments, wonderful diets only to sit and watch them die off at old age. Every single responsibility that man is naturally entrusted to keep must have a direct-indirect benefit to the physical, psychological, economic, or social upkeep of man. If we were to desist from the use of such animals then it would be an economic burden to maintain a whole range of healthy breeds with no economic benefit.

Just like any other sport, calf roping has its fun moments and its depressing moments. In football, the injured and the losers feel the pinch of the other side of the glamorous game. Surely injuries are only a necessity in the game. The resolve, the drive, the risk, and the tumultuous ride as the rodeo competitors race against time after a sprinting energetic calf generate the electric moments that pitch millions of viewers on their screens. This is the beauty of the game and it sounds rather selfish to deny millions of spectators, the sponsoring companies, the rodeo riders, and everybody else involved in making the industry a reality their right to self-entertainment and income generations. It becomes even more absurd if the sole reason for levying such a blanket and punitive legislation is just to protect the calf from a painful experience.

Opponents of calf roping generally posit that such rodeo events are the cause for unnecessary suffering to animals. Just like in other controversial issues, raw emotions seem to be the driving factor behind the argument that calf roping should be abolished. Opponents argue that animals are subjected to unnecessary suffering from torn ligaments, fractured horns, internal bleeding, and broken bones. Moreover, they claim that despite the presence of paramedics and ambulances on rodeo sites to deal with the injuries of cowboys, very little is done for the injured animals. As a result of the lack of veterinary facilities, most of these animals die for lack of immediate medical intervention.

However, it becomes uneconomical and unnecessary to offer medical attention to these injured animals because such animals are directly transported to slaughterhouses where they are processed for human consumption. Animal rights activists further claim that the lack of pain-killing medication on site is also to blame for the extreme suffering even though they know that such medications can not be administered to animals that are proceeding to the slaughterhouses. It is only animals that are not severely injured that are offered medical intervention as they fatten for beef production. Any other severely injured horse or calf proceeds to meat production industries that directly ship their products overseas.

Although the self-evident history of calf roping from the 18th century of the Old West, opponents have been quick to dispute the same by postulating that while the cowboys of the Old West tamed wild beasts by using brute strength and cunning, the cowboys of the present era domesticate these animals and force the animals to conform to a given form of behavior for prized competitions. They imply that today’s cowboys deliberately hurt animals with the sole aim of displaying human domination over such species. To maintain the observance and practice of rodeo events in the context of the frontier days is utterly impossible because as things change so do the environmental factors that promulgated those events. The argument is thus untenable as it purports that as times changed, the cowboys were expected to remain the same. The fact is that the environmental factors that promoted the development of roping skills and cattle wrestling skills are no longer in existence. The present factors such as the domestication of animals as opposed to drawing them from the wild require new methodologies of maintaining the exhilaration of the sport such as shocks and tail twisting.


To surmise, critics and animal rights crusaders have had their share of success in ensuring that sports that are considered inhuman and exalt human domination over all other species are prohibited by legislation. However, just as it was during the frontier days, small communities and ranches are still involved in the thrill of the sport. The histories of Rodeo champions and the Halls of Fame cannot just be obliterated with new thinking in this post-modern era. Away from the scrutiny of the animal rights crusaders like PEDA and SHARK, cowboys are still immersed in the beauty of calf roping and as history attests, it will not just die off.

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"Is the Sport of Calf Roping Humane?" IvyPanda, 11 Oct. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/is-the-sport-of-calf-roping-humane/.

1. IvyPanda. "Is the Sport of Calf Roping Humane?" October 11, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/is-the-sport-of-calf-roping-humane/.


IvyPanda. "Is the Sport of Calf Roping Humane?" October 11, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/is-the-sport-of-calf-roping-humane/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Is the Sport of Calf Roping Humane?" October 11, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/is-the-sport-of-calf-roping-humane/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Is the Sport of Calf Roping Humane'. 11 October.

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