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Bull-riding furore after young Aussie girl trampled at WA rodeo

The incident has brought into question how animals are being treated at rodeos.

Animal welfare groups are ramping up calls to ban bull-riding events after a bull escaped its enclosure at a rodeo in Western Australia on Saturday, running through the crowd and leaving several people injured.

Among them was five-year-old Aubrey who was trampled by the frantic crowd trying to escape the wild animal chasing people around the Kununurra rodeo as they took part in line dancing in the middle of the arena.

Aubrey was found lying on the ground after the chaos and was later hospitalised with head injuries. Her mother Natalie Ripps described the scenes as "pretty terrifying" and revealed her daughter wasn't moving when she found her. She was reportedly knocked to the ground and stomped on by a number of people.

Bull running towards people in arena at rodeo in Western Australia.
A bull escaped its encloses at a rodeo in Kununurra, WA on Saturday. Source: Instagram

'Deliberate manipulation' of animals

But reports the "rampaging bull" was "charging at the crowd” is extremely misleading Gayle D'Arcy from Animal Liberation Queensland told Yahoo News Australia. "It seemed to me that he was simply trying to make his way to the exit as quickly as possible," she said.

Ms Darcy said one of the major issues with rodeos is that the audience's enjoyment comes at the expense of the animals as she calls for more to be done about the "deliberate manipulation" of animal behaviours in sporting events.

"Nearly every [animal-related] event I would classify as fear-based. So without them being stressed, they don't exhibit the behaviours that are needed for the events to take place," she explained.

Bull kept in enclosure for too long

Rodeo rider Lance Bedford Jr explained how he thinks the traumatic event occurred, telling the ABC the bulls "don't like to stand too long in the chute". This resulted in the animal "busting through the gate," he explained. Some reports suggest the gate was not locked properly.

"I was really surprised that they would keep the animal in the chute for such a prolonged length of time. From his perspective, he's a herd animal, but he's been isolated in a small space," Gayle said.

"He's probably panicked, there's loud music and loud people around him, and so he's tried to escape," she suggested. "I would say he was simply feeling very stressed and to be perfectly honest this talk of rampaging I think is quite ridiculous".

Obvious signs of stress in animals

Gayle, whose organisation is fighting to ban rodeo events, said the animals show clear signs of distress. Salivating excessively is a sign of stress in bulls so too is their charging and rapid circling.

"The crowd finds this really amusing, but that's a clear indicator that they're feeling threatened," she said. "Unfortunately, because they're really big animals, the crowd normally finds that entertaining. I think that's just a lack of empathy for large animals such as bulls, or just a lack of understanding".

Girl with facial injuries after bull escapes enclose at rodeo.
The five-year-old girl sustained swelling around her head, a black eye, brushing and swelling on her forehead, a cut on her foot and two swollen ankles after being trampled on at the rodeo. Source: Facebook/AAP

Investigation underway after multiple injuries

Aubrey was among three people taken to hospital, including a girl under 10 and a man in his 30s. At least 15 more were treated at the scene, it's been reported. An investigation is underway as to how it occurred, Kununurra Campdraft and Rodeo Association said in a statement.

Vision of the incident shared on social media shows people dancing before screams can be heard; the crowd scatters as a small bull ploughs into the group, knocking some people to the ground.

Natalie said her daughter sustained swelling around her head, a black eye, brushing and swelling on her forehead, a cut on her foot and two swollen ankles.

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