Animal welfare at rodeos has recently been brought back into the spotlight, following the Carrieton Rodeo on December 28, which still went ahead in the evening despite temperatures soaring to more than 40 degrees during the day.
RSPCA SA animal welfare advocate Rebekah Eyers said the use of flank straps and spurs kicked into the sides of animals already caused them to be in pain, with extreme temperatures putting the animals into even more distress.
"Forcing animals to perform during a heatwave is just increasing the risk of heat stress and suffering significant anxiety, distress, and serious injury as well," she said.
Ms Eyers said the thoroughbred, greyhound and harness racing industries had all postponed events originally set to be held during the heatwave, and the Carrieton Rodeo should have also been cancelled or moved to a later date.
She said a heat policy should be developed by the Australian Professional Rodeo Association, rather than having decisions being made by organisers of individual rodeo events.
"The policy really needs to identify a cap temperature above which the rodeo should not be held, and it needs to mandate the actions that must be taken to mitigate the animal welfare risks during extreme weather," she said.
We've got fourth, fifth and sixth generation protein breeders organising the event - if we weren't any good at organising livestock in hot conditions, we wouldn't still be there.
Ms Eyers said the RSPCA was "not the enemy", and she acknowledged the importance of rodeos for the prosperity of country towns, but she suggested events that were low-stress for animals and in line with the latest animal welfare science would be a better option.
"Horsemanship workshops and low-stress stock handling courses across Australia have been very popular and have attracted big crowds, these are great spectacles," she said.
But Carrieton Rodeo Committee vice-president Jack Hoare said rodeos were an integral part of communities, and the committee had a good understanding of how to care for animals during the heatwave.
He said many measures were put in place to keep the animals out of distress leading up to the event.
"We bought in feed for the animals, and they were kept out in paddocks for the day, we didn't handle them much, and the contractor didn't have any problem with how the facility was supplied for his livestock, nor did our local people," he said.
The event was first held in 1953, organised by the Hoare, Row, Williams, Bierlee, Sheppard, and Smith families, and is still organised by local livestock handlers who "know what they're doing", according to Mr Hoare.
"We've got fourth, fifth and sixth generation protein breeders organising the event - if we weren't any good at organising livestock in hot conditions, we wouldn't still be there," he said.
He said the Carrieton Rodeo, and rodeos in general, were particularly important for providing a welcome distraction from dry times.
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"Farmers who usually deliver 2000 tonnes of grain are now delivering 150t, and community events like this bring everyone together and take their minds off the drought," he said.
Bullrider Harry Lawton was injured at the Carrieton rodeo when he was stomped on the back of the neck by a bull, but Mr Hoare said despite the danger, it was completely up to competitors as to whether they take part.
"As Mr Lawton stated, it's a high risk sport, and it's his choice to compete, " Mr Hoare said.
Mr Lawton was clear of injury in time to compete in the Mount Isa Rodeo, Qld, on December 31.
APRA was unable to be contacted for comment.
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