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New animal care approaches for Calgary Stampede

The world-class event continues to move forward with fresh ideas for managing welfare both on the ground and in the public eye

Posted: May 23, 2013


Paul Rosenberg, is Vice President of Programing for Calgary Stampede

Few events have the worldwide recognition of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. That exceptional profile is what makes the Calgary Stampede such a focal point for the animal welfare issue.

As the 2013 Stampede approaches, NewStream Farm Animal Care visited with Paul Rosenberg, vice president of programing for a preview and update on the approaches planned around this year's version of the always dynamic rodeo, exhibition and festival.

The conversation touched on six key concepts that are shaping the latest thinking and progress related to animal care at the Stampede.

1. The three Cs. The concept of "three Cs" is a big driver, says Rosenberg. Competence, confidence and communication are all pillars around which Calgary Stampede anchors its animal welfare activity.

"Competence boils down to prove it, and prove it again," he says. "We focus on continuous improvement through review, analysis and regular operational and risk audits of animal activities. We want to ensure we do everything possible to create safe conditions and incorporate high standards."

At the highly visible event it's critical this competence permeates throughout everyone involved in working with the animals. "Our values must be conveyed through the behavioral standards and actions of all of our staff, exhibitors and competitors. The animal handling skills and procedures of our people are transparent to 1.3 million visitors and millions more watching the broadcast at home."

Competence breeds confidence, which is also supported by having a strong scientific basis to practices, he says. "It's important that real scientific data, not just emotion, is used to inform our decisions."

The third pillar, communication, is an area where Calgary Stampede has big plans this year, he says. "For one example, we will initiate a community engagement panel that allows us to discuss with and hear from regular members of our community."

The intent is to create direct dialogue and get the conversation to a deeper level, he says. "Animal care discussions need to evolve past just the media stories and oppositional rhetoric. We want an honest dialogue with people and want to learn from our community how we can better inform them about our animal values and practices."

2. Strategy and accountability. Each of the pillars is part of a current three-year strategy for animal care. "The strategy documents the areas of focus and achievement that we believe are necessary to remain aligned with the expectations of our community. Each pillar has a series of actions to be completed in each year from 2013-2015. Executive leaders share the responsibility and monitor progress and allocate resources."

3. Independent advisory panel. Since 2010, Calgary Stampede has also relied upon an Animal Care Advisory Panel of independent experts who can support the event with knowledge and advice for continual improvement. "We engage the panel to challenge our practices and bring new thoughts and practices to our attention."


Courtesy: Calgary Stampede

4. Continual improvement. Examples of progress made in recent years include improved annual animal care assessment, establishment of codes of practice, animal handling workshops, rule changes in competitive events, an increased veterinary presence, and new and refurbished infrastructure for animal safety.

5. Respecting different views. The expectations for all organizations involved in animal care will continue to increase with each passing generation, says Rosenberg.

"We know that in an urbanizing world that the average person's connection to working animals is becoming more remote."

There are divergent viewpoints on the use of animals for exhibition, competition and education, just as there are divergent opinions on the use of animals for food or consumer products, he says.

"People have the right to those divergent opinions. We believe they also have the right to all the facts on animal issues so they can decide for themselves."

6. Building on shared values. The path ahead for Calgary Stampede is directed by a mindset of always looking for ways to get better, including continuing to build stronger relationships with the public, he says.

"We feel our approaches are on the right track. Our challenge going forward will be to continually find new and better ways to communicate our shared values, particularly with younger, urban audiences that are not as connected to the complexities of caring for working animals. The challenge is not to out-communicate those with divergent opinions, but rather to ensure our position and values are clearly understood by our community."


Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.


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