DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – A petition gaining ground in Colorado is aiming to get the National Western Stock Show to pull a popular event from its lineup.
The mutton bustin’ competition features kids between the ages of five to seven who try to hang on to the back of a running sheep for as long as they can.
Those who want to get rid of the popular event, however, believe the activity to be cruel and barbaric.
An online petition started by a woman who lives in the United Kingdom had so far gathered nearly 82,000 signatures.
“The entire Western Stock Show is a very violent event,” said Aidan Cook, an activist with Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights group.
Cook is one of nearly 1,200 Coloradans who had signed the petition by Wednesday afternoon in an effort to put a lasso on Denver’s mutton bustin.’
“If we thought (this was) an event where we strapped kids to the backs of terrified dogs and ran them around for our enjoyment, people would be outraged. And it’s really no different to do the same thing to sheep,” Cook told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.
Samantha Francis, the U.K. resident who created the petition said she had already been successful in stopping the sheep show at a venue in Great Britain.
Her petition states that the terrified prey sheep sees the child as a predator, often leaving animals seriously injured.
Coloradans throughout Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and other cities across the state have posted hundreds of comments. One signer from Littleton wrote, “an embarrassment to Colorado.” Another from Colorado Springs commented, “animal and child abuse.”
The National Western Stock Show’s President and CEO was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but a spokesperson provided the below statement:
“The National Western Stock Show takes animal welfare and safety very seriously. Every mutton bustin’ event has strict, enforced rules that protect both animal and child. The sheep used for mutton bustin’ come from a certified working ranch in Colorado who have provided the mutton bustin’’ ewes for Stock Show for many years. Every animal has required health papers verifying animal wellness. The sheep carries the small child for just a few seconds before the child falls or is pulled off. Each child participating must be between the ages of 5-7 and not weigh more than 55 lbs for the safety of the sheep. Each registered mutton buster must wear a safety vest and helmet. National Western Stock Show has 24/7 veterinarian services, and mutton bustin’ events are staffed with experienced personnel from Justin Sports Medicine team, comprised of an Orthopedic and ER doctor to tend to the children if a need for medical assistance.”