Calf roping controversy at Utah State Fair prompts allegations of rodeo cruelty
A controversial calf roping at the Utah State Fair is drawing criticism to a new state law that stops local governments from banning rodeos over animal cruelty.
Driving the news: Photos of a fallen calf circulated online after The Utah's Own PRCA Rodeo on Friday night, drawing complaints that the event amounted to animal abuse.
- "The calf was clotheslined straight back and just laid there on the ground, not moving," Sandy photographer and rodeo watchdog Wes Burdett wrote in a post on Instagram.
- After the calf stood up, it collapsed again and was dragged by its neck toward the exit, where it got back to its feet, Burdett said.
- The images were shared on multiple social media platforms, generating hundreds of complaints.
The other side: The state fair posted a video Monday showing the calf's face, with a statement that the calf was "completely healthy."
- "The Utah's Own Rodeo takes the health and welfare of livestock at our event very seriously," the statement read. The calf was examined by a vet, fair officials added.
Yes, but: Animal advocates say the calf's recovery doesn't erase the harm of the event.
The big picture: Rodeos have long been scrutinized for allegations of animal cruelty, with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to crushed skulls and broken spines.
The intrigue: A post by the fair's own Instagram account initially apologized for the scene at Friday's rodeo.
- "This is horrible and something we weren't aware of happening," the comment stated before the Instagram account deleted it. "On behalf of everyone at the State Fair we apologize profusely and are absolutely DISGUSTED by this."
A state fair official did not immediately return Axios' call for comment.
The latest: Critics are taking aim at a state law passed in March that forbids cities and counties from banning rodeos and many other "animal enterprises" except to enforce their water safety and land use provisions.
- The measure's sponsor, state Sen. Scott Sandall (R-Tremonton), specifically pointed to the state fair rodeo as an event the law was designed to protect.
- "We should be able to, across the state, preserve that heritage," Sandall said in a January hearing.
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