Manitoba Winter Fair should halt ‘inhumane’ sheep wrangling, calf events: animal rights groups

Two animal welfare groups are calling on one of the largest agricultural fairs in Canada to cancel events they say could hurt animals.

The Winnipeg Humane Society and Animal Justice want Brandon’s Royal Manitoba Winter Fair to cancel what the Humane Society called in a social media post its “inhumane sheep wrangling and calf scramble events.”

The events involve youth participants chasing, tackling and wrestling animals in an arena “in the name of entertainment,” according to Animal Justice.

Kaitlyn Mitchell, the director of legal advocacy for Animal Justice, said such competitions put animals at risk of physical injury and cause them extreme stress.

The groups have written to the Chief Veterinary Office asking them to look into the events, Mitchell said in a Monday interview with CBC’s Noon Radio.

A similar move in 2022 led to those events being canceled at the festival for 2023.

This year, the festival is running what it calls a “barnyard challenge” — which Animal Justice says is essentially a rebrand of the calf scramble.

“I’m confused about why we are going through this again,” Mitchell said in a Monday interview with CBC’s Noon Radio.

“But it certainly is my hope that the Chief Veterinary Office will take this seriously, speak to the organizers … and help them to understand that these events are not only unnecessary and put animals at risk, but they could very well be illegal. “

Radio Noon Manitoba6:05Two events at the upcoming Royal Manitoba Winter Fair violated animal cruelty laws, according to animal rights groups

Two previously canceled events are returning to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, to the dismay of animal rights advocates. Kaitlyn Mitchell with Animal Justice joins guest host Chloe Friesen to discuss why they are trying to cancel the “calf scramble” and “mutton busting” at next week’s fair.

Mark Humphries, the general manager for the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba — the non-profit that produces the winter fair, which runs from March 25-30 this year — said as of now, the events will still go ahead.

“We listened to our base … the agricultural community,” Humphries said. “And the agricultural community is saying that these events, we need them to stay.”

Humphries said he’d “much rather have an open door of communication” with critics of the events, but “we’ve never had notice that they’re on site, we’ve never had any [indication] that they’d like to come to a table and talk.”

He also said their message was damaging to the goal of the Winter Fair, which was to “re-establish that connection between city and rural and educate as we go.”

“We’re trying desperately to make sure that disconnects are halted and reversed through our educational practices here,” Humphries said.

He also said the Winter Fair operates within the Animal Care Act in its practices on site, and last year, organizers invited the chief veterinary officer and his assistant to come and see the full show.

The fair has an open-door policy with the office to ensure it’s operating under best practices with animals, he said.

In a statement to CBC, the province said the chief veterinary officer has committed to attending the Winter Fair as needed to ensure the animal welfare standards are upheld and that the festival abides by animal welfare regulations.

Communication with the fair organizers”is essential in maintaining the well-being of all animals involved,” and the office “takes its responsibilities seriously and is dedicated to efficiently addressing any significant welfare issues that may arise,” the statement said.

Demonstration of farming life: organizer

The fair’s “barnyard challenge” event — which Humphries denied was a rebranded “calf scramble” — and the sheep wrangling are a relatively small part of the week the fair runs, accounting for two 10-minute time slots among hundreds of other events, he said.

The events aim to demonstrate what life on the farm can look like and simulate the process of haltering and moving animals for daily chores, said Humphries.

During the event, calves are released with halters and young participants try to remove the halters, but “we don’t wrestle,” he said.

“It’s very quick, and that’s how it should be. You know, if an animal gets away from a chute or a catch pen, you have to operate very quickly and make sure that animal is safe,” Humphries said, adding the fair doesn’t ‘t condone any kind of animal abuse.

The sheep wrangling event also has a weight and height restriction for participants in order to protect the animals, he said.

Competitors typically come from a farming background and have experience working with animals, he said. For those who don’t, the events are an opportunity to gain experience by learning from others how animals, according to Humphries.

Kaitlyn Mitchell, director of legal advocacy with Animal Justice, a non-profit fighting to have the horse meat industry banned.
Kaitlyn Mitchell, director of legal advocacy with Animal Justice, said the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair’s ‘barnyard challenge’ and sheep scamble events put animals at risk of physical injury and cause them extreme stress. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Mitchell said Animal Justice doesn’t want to interfere with the fair events, but said calf scramble and sheep wrangling events need to end.

“While I appreciate tradition and I appreciate rural Manitoban roots, these events have nothing to do with that, and there’s no reason for them to continue,” she said.

By hadem