The Journal of Sport and Exercise Studies/Business, Politics and Sport 2011/The Effect of Animal Cruelty Allegations in Sport

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Rhiannon Stephens, 2011
Original copy

Presentation on Youtube

A bull riding contestant at the Calgary Stampede rodeo. Photo by Chuck Szmurlo 10/7/2007

Animals have played a major role in sport, whether it has been for legal or illegal purposes. The organisations involved in utilising animals include rodeo, greyhound and horse racing all have strict animal welfare policies in place to prevent animal cruelty allegations. However, controversy on this issue never far away and is brought about by animal rights organisations such as PETA, SAFE and SHARK. They claim that the techniques employed in these sports constitute animal cruelty. The sporting organisations claim that there is no information to support the claims made by animal cruelty organisations and that there information is based on propaganda. These are a major source of entertainment and they provide huge media and sponsorship deals. The negative side of this is that media coverage is the main stream of promotion for sports involved. Articles that are negative are more likely to influence the opinions of others than that of positive articles, which has the potential to damage the reputation, image and popularity of an organisation. In turn this has an effect on attendance, merchandising sponsorship and endorsement deals as organisations involved do not want to be seen as supporting animal cruelty. This article uses peer reviewed journals and organisational websites to describe the effects that animal cruelty controversies have on sporting organisations. There has been little research done in this area, more research needs to be done to see the full results of constant animal cruelty claims and how they affect sporting businesses.

History of Animal Use in Sport[edit]

The use of animals in sport can be traced back to as far as when the ancient Greeks and Romans used horses in chariot races [1]. Since then humans have continued to use animals in various sports. Rodeos have been present since the 18th century, not always considered a sport though [2]. In the 1820’s and 1830’s Rodeos were considered informal events, the first Rodeo competition was held in 1872 in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Prescott, Arizona claimed having the first professional rodeo in which they charged admission and winning competitors were awarded [2]. Since then we have seen the emergence of the rodeos that are seen today. Organised horse racing dates back to the 17th century, and in the 20th century was one of the only sports to continue throughout both of the world wars and since then has emerged as an international sport[3]. Organisaed greyhound race meetings date back to 1926 in Britain, since then this event has become an extremely popular past time and has seen the emergence of a billion dollar industry[4]


The billion dollar sporting industries that we see today are continuously modified to support legislation in order to prevent animal cruelty claims. The first animal cruelty laws were introduced in the 1870’s, and since then the laws have evolved into the legislation that is present today,[5]. After the release of such legislation, welfare controversies have surrounded these particular sports. Rodeos, horse and greyhoud racing are examples of sports that are legal to participate in as there are strict guidelines to ensure that the animals are protected. However, there are other sports that involve animals but to participate in blood sports such as cock fighting and dog fighting is illegal[6].

Opinions of the Media[edit]

Sports involving animals generate huge amounts of media coverage and sponsorship. Unfortunately, for the organisations involved media coverage is the main type of promotion for these sports and the organisations are not able to control the opinions that they share with the world [7]. Negative publicity arises from animal cruelty claims that emerge from animal rights organisations such as People for Ethical Treatment of animals (PETA), SAFE and SHARK and they portray the sports in the worst possible way. The organisations believe that animals should not be used in sports as it constitutes animal cruelty [8]. The organisations also argue that the people involved in these sports do not follow the rules and regulations that are set out by the Government and the sporting bodies and therefore we should have total animal liberation[9].


Rodeo itself attracts a significant amount of negative publicity as organisations believe that the events cause distress and injuries to the animals and they protest that rodeo’s should be banned[10]. Animal rights activists try to discourage people from attending these events by convincing them that if they attend the event thay are supporting animal cruelty as. Statements such as this "Rodeo events are, no matter the gloss put on them, gratuitously violent acts against defenceless animals” are used to deter people from attending these events Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag. The greyhound racing industry faces many allegations of animal cruelty or abuse as animal cruelty organisations believe that the greyhounds are suffering as they are do not race willingly and that if they are not winners they are disposed of[11]. By using these examples it can be seen that theses organisations are plagued by animal welfare controversy.

Media Portrayal Sporting Organisation Portrayal
2005 Calf Roping. Photo by Ethelred

This image is used by animal rights organisations to discourage people from going to watch these events. Saying that this is how the event unfolds every time.

Woman roping a calf at the Buffalo Bill Cody Stampede Rodeo. Photo by C.G.P Grey

This image would be used by organisations and is more appropriate to use as it does not imply that either animal is under any stress.

The Effect of Animal Cruelty Allegations[edit]

There has been and still is a significant amount of negative media surrounding sporting organisations such as the Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA), the Australian Racing Board (ARB) and Greyhound Racing South Australia (GRSA)over animal cruelty claims. This can cause problems for organisations as they spend more time reacting to unplanned events or accusations that negatively affect the attitudes of the public, rather than being proactive and trying to create positive attitudes within communities [7]. These statements could have serious implications for businesses involved in these sports such as rodeo, horse racing and greyhound racing. As the Result of people making statements about animal cruelty have the potential to have a negative impact on organisations as it has been proven that people have a tendency to remember more facts from negative articles than that of positive articles[12].


The allegations made by other organisations are similar to that of PETA and SAFE. The result of the constant negative media can seriously damage the reputation, image and popularity of an organisation[7]. This then has an effect on areas that involve attendance, merchandising, sponsorship and endorsement deals. When expressing their opinions on animal cruelty organisations are discouraging people from attending events which could effect the ability for sporting businesses to make a profit[7]. An example of when sponsorship was removed is when Telstra removed sponsorship from a local rodeo in Corryong due to allegations of animal cruelty[13]. . Another instance when sponsorship was removes was when Choice Hotels dropped their sponsorship of the National High School Rodeo Association (NHRSA) because an animal rights group alleging that by sponsoring the event they were supporting animal cruelty [8].The Loss of sponsorship has an affect on sporting businesses as they are losing funds that are essential to hold and run events. Therefore the way that the organisation is portrayed in the media can have major impacts on sporting businesses.

Sponsorship of an event is supposed to have a positive effect on the corporate image of an organisation [14]. The association of a brand with sport can have negative effect if the sporting organisation generates a lot of negative media attention. This has the potential cause trouble for the sports that are involved in competitions which involve animal cruelty claims. Sponsorship of these events could be viewed as risk taking behaviour [14]. Sponsorship is a fundamental ingredient for a successful event. It is a major stream of revenue for the organisers of an event and the withdrawal of sponsorship can have major impacts on an event and cause financial difficulties for organisations[15].


There was controversy amongst the Greyhound racing industry when apparently not one representative from the McGrath Foundation turned up to receive a check from the greyhound racing industry. This was due to the public perceptions that by being associated with this organisation they support animal cruelty. However, they still wanted to receive the money, they just did not want to do it in the public eye [16]. This affects the business of greyhound racing as people do not want to be involved or associated with sports that attract negative publicity as they do not want to be seen as supporting animal cruelty. Many other concerns arise as animal rights activists believe that hitting the horse with a whip is considered to be animal cruelty[17]. These allegations could possibly have an effect on the commodification of this sport as the activists discourage people from attending these events or placing bets [18]. They convince people that if they attend an event they are supporting animal cruelty, this is the same as in Rodeo. The affect of the constant scrutiny resulted in the ARB changing the rules of racing as these issues were raised at all levels of competition. Jockeys are no longer aloud to raise whips above their shoulder, also whips must be padded [17]. Within 5 weeks of changing the rules the ARB believed that there had been a substantial improvement in the attitudes and practices of this sport [17]. This has had a positive impact on the horse racing industry. However, the opinions of the media still effect areas such as sponsorship for sporting organisations.


Horse racing at Galopp Riem 05/06/2005, Munich, Germany.Photo by Softeis.
English: Greyhound racing 18/05/2008.Phot by AngMokio

How Organisations Respond to Such Allegations[edit]

In defence to the animal cruelty claims the APRA argue that there is no information to support the claims that animals are treated in an inhumane way. They also believe that the statements that are made by groups such as PETA and SAFE are fabricated to support their personal emotions regarding the sport[10]. In repsonsding to animal cruelty claims in rodeo the APRA said that "The sport has had to become more transparent and proactive if it was to survive under today’s expectations"[19] Wikiversity user:Rhiannon Stephens talk page</ref>. Statistics of injured livestock are taken at events and forwarded on to animal welfare regulatory bodies so that they can compare them with their own records. The APRA have also stated on their website that they value the animals that they use and follow strict animal welfare policies [10]. This website also explains for people that do not understand the sport of Rodeo that the use of these animals in such a way does not involve animal cruelty[20]. As seen in the horse racing example the ARB responded to animal cruelty allegations by changing the rules and regulations regarding whips. They believe that by having done this they have seen an improvement in the attitudes of people around the sport, therefore this has had a positive impact. In order to prevent allegations GRSA have partnered with Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and the University of South Australia to ensure that their animals receive the best possible care(Email). Also the dogs are placed in foster homes so that they learn how to become pets and once they are finished racing are placed into permanent homes[19]. They also ensure people that they put animal welfare at the heart of what they do[19]. All organisations that are involved in these sports have made sure that policies in place to protect the animals that are involved.

Conclusion[edit]

Animals have been used in sports since the ancient Greek and Roman chariot races, and continue to be used in professional sports today[1]. The emergence of animals in sport brought about animal welfare legislation in the 1870’s, which provides the laws for which animals are to be treated[2]. These sports are a major source of entertainment and provide huge media and sponsorship deals. The organisations are not able to control the opinions that are expressed in the media [7]. The negative publicity that is generated has huge impacts on sporting organisations[7]. In the media, animal rights organisations claim that the use of animals in sport is what constitutes animal cruelty and we should have total animal liberation. In stating their opinions the animal rights organisations discourage people from attending events and betting. These articles are negative and people are more likely to remember the facts from these than positive articles[12]. The negative media coverage damages the reputation, image and popularity of an organisation which in turn affects attendance, merchandising, sponsorship and endorsement deals as other people and organisations do not want to be seen as supporting animal cruelty[7]. This is a major concern where sponsorship is concerned as association with an organisation can have a negative effect if it attracts substantial amounts of negative publicity, in which these sports do[7]. The statements that are made in the media to the public have a huge impact on the businesses that are involved and this then affects all aspects of the sport[7]. The organisations involved claim that there is no information to support the claims made by animal rights organisations that their opinions are fabricated to represent their personal emotions regarding the sport.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ‘Animal Cruelty’ in Learning to Give. 2008, viewed on 24 September 2011,<http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper359.html>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Graves, Melody, Ropes, Reins, And Rawhide: All About Rodeo, University of New Mexico Press, United States of America, 2006, p. 3-4
  3. Greenacres Stud, ‘History of Horse racing’, in Greenacres Stud. 2005, viewed on 25 September 2011, <http://www.greenacres-stud.com/horseracing.htm>
  4. Greyhound Board of Great Britain, ‘History of Greyhound Racing’, in Greyhound Board of Great Britain. 2009, viewed on 25 September 2011, <http://www.gbgb.org.uk/HistoryofGreyhoundRacing.aspx>
  5. MSPCA Angell, ‘MSPCA Law Enforcement’ on CRUELTY PREVENTION. 2006, viewed on 29 September 2011,<http://www.mspca.org/programs/cruelty-prevention/>
  6. The Post and Courier, ‘Cock fighting illegal, but not gone’, in The Post and Courier. August 2008, viewed 18 October, <http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2008/aug/15/cockfighting_illegal_but_not_gone50928/>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 Bruce, Toni & Tini, Tahlia ‘Unique crisis response strategies in sports public relations: Rugby league and the case for diversion’ Public Relations Review, Volume. 34, no. 2, 2008, pp 108-115.
  8. 8.0 8.1 SHARK, ‘Forget the Myth’, in RodeoCruelty.com. November 2009, viewed on 3 September 2011, <http://www.sharkonline.org/?P=0000000349>
  9. Wetz, Max, ‘Animal Defenders of Westchester’, in PETA and Rodeos. July 2008, viewed on 1 September 2001, <http://www.all-creatures.org/adow/art-rodeo-20030131.html>
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Australian Professional Rodeo Association, ‘Animal Welfare- What does it mean?’ in Animal Welfare. n.d viewed on 1 September 2011, < http://prorodeo.asn.au/animals.htm>
  11. Animal Aid, ‘Greyhound Racing’, in Animals in Sport.2011 viewed on 17 October 2011, <http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/YOUTH/sport//1877//>
  12. 12.0 12.1 Funk, Daniel C & Pritchard, Mark P ‘Sport Publicity: Commitment’s moderation of message effects’ Journal of Business Research, vol 59, 2006 pp 613-621
  13. ABC News, ‘Telstra bucks sponsorship over rodeo cruelty fears’, in ABC News, September 2007, viewed on 4 September 2011, < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-09-19/telstra-bucks-sponsorship-over-rodeo-cruelty-fears/674208>
  14. 14.0 14.1 Wilson, Bradley, Stavros, Constantino & Westburg, Kate ‘A sport crisis typology: establishing a pathway for future research’, International Journal of Sport Management & marketing, vol. 7, no. 1, 2010, p 21
  15. Westburg, Kate, Stavros, Kate & Wilson, Bradley ‘The impact of degenerative episodes on the sponsorship B2B relationship: Implications for brand management’ Journal of Industrial Marketing Management, vol 40, 2011, pp 603-611
  16. Animals Australia, ‘The Australian Greyhound Racing Industry: The McGrath Foundation’, in Unleashed. March 2011, viewed 4 September 2011, <http://www.unleashed.org.au/community/forum/topic.php?t=4724>
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Australian Racing Board, ‘Whip Reform Stays’, in Australian Racing Board. September 2009, viewed on 1 September 2011, <http://www.australianracingboard.com.au/Media.whip-reform-stays>
  18. Animals Australia, ‘the glitz the glam our... the grim reality’ in Horse Racing. August 2010, viewed 5 September 2011, < http://www.animalsaustralia.org/issues/horse_racing.php#toc4>
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Stephens, Rhiannon, 'Email interview transcript with Australian Professional Rodeo Association and Greyhound Racing Australia' in User_talk:Rhiannon Stephens. 2011, <http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/User_talk:Rhiannon_Stephens/The_Effect_of_Animal_Cruelty_Allegations_in_Sport>
  20. Australian Professional Rodeo Association, ‘The Facts Concerning the Care and Treatment of Professional Rodeo Livestock’, in Animal Welfare .n.d, viewed on 5 September 2011, <http://prorodeo.asn.au/forms/AnimalWelfare.pdf>