Animal rights group calls off Chilliwack rodeo protest after threats received

CHILLIWACK, B.C. — The organizers of a protest against a rodeo being held this weekend at a fair east of Vancouver say they are cancelling the demonstration after receiving threats.

The Fraser Valley Animal Rights Association says members received "multiple threats of violence" after announcing the protest, which was to be held Sunday prior to the final rodeo exhibition at a fair in Chilliwack, B.C.

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In addition to the threats, the association says in a news release that it received word of a planned counter-protest and decided to call off its demonstration due to safety concerns.

The release says the "peaceful demonstration against the rodeo was intended to start a dialogue, raise awareness of animal cruelty, and spread a message of compassion."

Organizers say in an email that they do not wish to be named because of concerns for their safety.

A spokeswoman for the B.C. Rodeo Association, which partners with the fair and manages the rodeo, says the organization did not threaten anyone and she has no knowledge of any group planning a counter-protest.

The release from the animal rights association says it was formed barely one week ago and the demonstration on Sunday would have been its first event. Although the threats are "deeply disheartening," the group says they reaffirm the need to campaign for animal rights in the Fraser Valley.

"The lesson we have learned from the hostile responses we received is that we must not give up, but instead redirect our attention toward more productive forms of activism, such as working to enact policies that prohibit animal abuse," the release says.

Trish Kohorst, vice-president of the B.C. Rodeo Association says in a telephone interview that she is unfamiliar with the Fraser Valley Animal Rights, but "we certainly would never threaten anybody."

The Chilliwack and District Agricultural Society, which organizes the annual Chilliwack Fair, says on its website that it "supports the responsible and humane involvement of animals in entertainment, industry and sport and believes that all animals participating in such activities should be afforded proper care, treatment and management."

The society "does not support animal rights philosophies that call for the end of all use and interaction with animals. Animal rights in its purest form focuses on whether humans have the right to view and use animals as partners or resources," the statement says.

Members of the animal rights organization say canceling their demonstration was a difficult decision and "for those who may still intend to protest the Chilliwack Fair’s rodeo individually this weekend, we respect your efforts and wish you peace and safety."

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