Animal rights activists protest at the use of spurs and straps in rodeo events running alongside the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City

The staging of a number of western events for visitors to the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, USA, has provoked protests by animal rights activists.

They are objecting to the use of spurs and straps buckled to the groins of horses in rodeo riding.

The Utah Animal Rights Coalition says rodeos are “inherently” cruel

Executive director of the coalition, Sean Diener, said: “The spurs cause lesions and pain. The straps are so tight around the horse that the animals throw themselves at fences and on the ground to remove them.

“Last month, a horse broke its back doing this.”

He says that in his negotiations with the rodeo association, they say the horses will not buck without the straps or spurs.

Those involved with the rodeos maintain that accidents are rare and are refusing to remove straps or spurs.

Sean says the campaign against the rodeos has become the most controversial issue a the Olympics.

Activists have already staged several events aimed at bringing attention to what they call an “atrocity” by showing videotapes of animals injured during rodeo events.

They have also demonstrated at Salt Lake City’s international airport, holding a placard reading “Don’t Shame the Games”.

The rodeo events, which include saddle bronc riding, bareback riding and team roping are part of the Olympic Arts Festival running alongside the Games and are aimed at giving visitors a taste of the Wild West.

The Winter Olympic Games run from 8 – 24 February.

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