Montreal

Festival Western de St-Tite rolls out amid animal welfare concerns

The Festival Western de St-Tite in Quebec's Mauricie region begins this weekend, much to the consternation of Montreal's SPCA.

Quebec rodeo generates tens of millions of dollars in annual economic spinoffs

The festival features several rodeo events, including barrel racing, tie-down roping, rescue racing and steerwrestling. (Radio-Canada)

The Festival Western de St-Tite in Quebec's Mauricie region begins this weekend, much to the consternation of Montreal's SPCA.

The 48-year-old festival features several rodeo events including barrel racing, tie-down roping, rescue racing, steer-wrestling and bullfighting — activities the SPCA says "subject the animals to unnecessary stress and suffering for the pure purpose of so-called 'entertainment.'"

The SPCA says it hasn't been able to investigate the festival because it is not within its jurisdiction. The animal-protection organization is responsible for investigating claims of animal abuse in the greater Montreal area. It says only the Québec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has the authority to investigate the festival.

Spanning just over a week, the festival — which takes place in the small, 4,000-person town of St-Tite, between Montreal and Quebec City near Shawinigan — ropes in about 625,000 yearly visitors.

On its website, the Festival Western St-Tite addresses animal welfare by saying that horses and bulls are kept outside, and the staff hired to handle the animals take their well-being to heart.

"At the Festival Western St-Tite, we want the animals to be in as peaceful and adequate environment possible, in order to limit stress levels and ensure their welfare," the website says.

Aside from cowboys and animal-related events, the festival also features live music, dancing and food. 

It brings in about $47 million in economic spinoffs each year for the region.

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