May 17, 2024

Calling Bull on PBR

In June, Professional Bull Riders (PBR) will trundle into Ottawa, bringing with them cruel exploitation of bulls for entertainment and profit. In PBR’s display of complete disregard for animal well-being, bulls will be mounted with a flank strap tightened around their lower bellies and forced to flail in distress while a crowd roars, music blares and bright lights flash.

At the OHS, we’re asking the community to not attend or support the event and to sign a petition showing that Ottawa does not want PBR or events like it to return.  

Promoters claim the bulls are “born to buck” and refer to the animals as athletes — painting an illusion of the bulls being willing and enthusiastic participants. In fact, people have gathered in these arenas to cheer at a creature who is stressed and agitated.

There is nothing natural about a bull forced to perform in an arena for entertainment, forced to buck for the thrill of the crowd.

PBR describes a bull’s reaction to the rider and tightened flank strap as talent, athleticism and desire to buck. A 2008 study identifies “excitability” as a desired trait when breeding bulls for competition. Excitability could also be described as how strongly the bull reacts to negative stimulus, like a foreign object on their back and a rope wrapped around their belly.

The training bulls endure to be considered ready for competition is unclear, but not without cause for concern about the well-being of the animals. One breeder says: “Try to be extremely careful at home bucking your bulls. They pick up bad habits if you let them and then you have to fix it.” The breeder does not elaborate on how unwanted behaviours are “fixed.”

An article reviewing training bulls with mechanical dummy riders describes the process as follows: “After four seconds, when the bull kicks and turns high enough, Trask pushes the remote control button and [the rider and flank strap] are released simultaneously. The bull wins the round.

By rewarding the bull when it jumps and kicks, the positive reinforcement will make it jump higher and kick more next time.

If you know anything about training an animal, removing an unpleasant stimulus is not positive reinforcement; it is an aversive training method that relies on pain or discomfort to produce behaviour that humans find desirable. The bull is bucking so that he no longer has a foreign object on his back and midsection — not because he wants to “win.”

In 2023, a poll revealed that 76% of Canadians do not support events like PBR that use animals for entertainment.

In a 2023 community consultation that received more than 3,000 responses from Ottawa’s residents, 94% shared that advocacy from the OHS to protect animals from cruelty and neglect is a priority. It is clear the PBR event does not align with the values of Ottawa’s community.

As someone who cares, I believe you already had no intention of attending PBR’s upcoming event. If you can take a moment, please sign our petition, and help show that animal cruelty has no place in Ottawa.

Sharon Miko
President & CEO