Vancouver Humane Society pleased Bell not sponsoring Stampede rodeo this year

CALGARY – Telecommunication giant Bell Canada is not sponsoring any rodeo events at the Calgary Stampede this year and an animal welfare group says it believes its campaigning had something to do with the move.

The Vancouver Humane Society launched an e-campaign in June 2011, urging the public to demand Bell (TSX:BCE) stop sponsoring the rodeo. The campaign included a pre-written letter that could be sent to Bell chief executive George Cope.

The society says more than 1,200 people had participated before the page was taken down last Friday when the group learned of Bell’s change.

“To us, it’s a significant change,” said humane society spokesman Peter Fricker.

“What we hope it means is that it’s showing an increase in corporate distaste for the rodeo and obviously we’re pleased that Bell Canada is no longer a major sponsor, or a sponsor, of the Stampede rodeo.”

Bell is still a major sponsor of Stampede events around the rodeo, presenting free live entertainment at the brand new Bell Centennial Plaza on the Stampede grounds.

“We are not sponsoring the rodeo this year,” company spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis said in an email. “We have decided to focus on the entertainment part of the Stampede in celebration of its 100th anniversary.”

Stampede spokesman Doug Fraser said Bell is still one of the festival’s top sponsors.

“The fact of the matter is Bell is still a valued sponsor here at the Stampede at the same level that they were always at,” he said.

“They’re putting a goodly amount of money into their sponsorship here on park and we’re thrilled to have them. They just had different business motives to go to and they decided to go with it that way.”

The Calgary Stampede annual 10-day celebration of cowboy culture that features the rodeo, chuckwagon races, carnival rides, a plethora of deep fried treats and live music.

The animal events have long been a lightening rod for critics. The Vancouver Humane Society has been among the most vocal arguing animals are needlessly harmed in many events.

The Vancouver Humane Society recently wrote to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi urging him to join its fight to stop calf roping at the Stampede rodeo.

The event features a running calf and a rider mounted on a horse. The rider must catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck. He then dismounts from the horse, runs to the calf and restrains it by tying three legs together in as short a time as possible.

“Although the mayor of Calgary has a seat on the board of the Calgary Stampede, the Calgary Stampede has ultimate authority over animal care at the Stampede rodeo,” Nenshi replied in a letter to the humane society.