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New Zealand rodeo turns to men dressed as sheep

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

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image captionRodeo-goers will barely be able to tell the difference, if this file photo is anything to go by

A rodeo in New Zealand is to employ men dressed as sheep after it found out that one of its events was illegal.

Kakahi Rodeo, which takes place on New Zealand's North Island, abandoned its children's sheep-chasing event in 2016 after it fell foul of animal welfare rules set by the country's Ministry of Primary Industries, the Waikato Times reports. After replacing the sheep last year with sacks of wool being dragged around the arena by clowns, organisers are hoping the marginally more realistic sight of volunteers in sheep outfits will instead fit the bill for this weekend's event.

Sheep-chasing - which also happens at American rodeo shows - allows children to take part in the day's events, but campaigners say that it is both unnecessary and cruel to the animals.

The move toward human sheep at the Kakahi Rodeo has been welcomed by animal rights campaign group Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE), with spokeswoman Marianne Macdonald telling Newstalk ZB radio: "It sounds like they're coming up with good ways of avoiding cruelty to animals so I'm all in favour with that."

However, SAFE is still opposed to rodeos "brought in from overseas" as a means of entertainment, New Zealand Herald reports. "It's really like bullying animals for entertainment. And I don't know about you, but I certainly think that bullying is something that we need to stamp out," Ms MacDonald says.

Rodeo official Raewyn West thinks differently, though, saying the 40-year-old event is now very much part of the district's agricultural culture.

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