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In about-face, Calgary Herald accepts anti-Stampede ad Add to ...

A year after its failed effort to buy an anti-Stampede advertisement sparked an uproar in Calgary, the Vancouver Humane Society has found a taker.

The group has purchased a full-page, $15,000 ad set to appear in Monday's Calgary Herald, the city's largest circulation newspaper that had first rejected the Vancouver Humane Society a year ago. The ad targets calf-roping, one of the long-tenured events of the city's iconic Stampede, and features a photo of a tied-down calf under the banner, "That's entertainment?"

It's a tamer version of an ad last year that called a rancher a "bully." This year's version includes no mention of the Stampede itself, which begins this week.

"We're very confident that people in Calgary, anywhere in Alberta and people generally will get the point," VHS spokesman Peter Fricker said. "We did everything we could to ensure that this ad would be acceptable to the Herald."

It's unclear whether it was change in ad content or last year's controversy that led to the Herald changing its mind. Last year's rejection by it and the Calgary Sun was a boon for the VHS, which then saw its message carried on national television networks and other media covering the controversy. (The Herald declined comment on Monday's ad, saying sales are "highly confidential.")

"This certainly strikes me as a compromise," Keith Brownsey, a political scientist at Calgary's Mount Royal University, said of the Herald's agreement to run the ad.

It is the latest in a standoff between the VHS and the Calgary Humane Society, which has broader legislative powers and partners with the Stampede. As such, Stampede organizers repeatedly note the "difference between animal-welfare organizations and animal-rights organizations," a thinly veiled shot at the VHS's credentials.

The Calgary Humane Society's pressure has led the Stampede to make some changes, including untying a calf more quickly, stopping a steer wrestling event if the animal's legs bend the wrong way, and using better horseshoes in chuckwagon races.

"While other organizations may wish to intervene through protest, or other means, CHS has found it can best protect the interests of the animals involved by working with organizations that put on such events," the CHS says in its Stampede press kit.

"By sitting at the table and being professional and civil and advancing ideas and looking for some commonality, there can be good things coming out of it," added David Chalack, a veterinarian and rancher who is the head of the Calgary Stampede's board of directors.

The VHS argues, however, that the Calgary organization is too quiet about its problems with the Stampede and that opinions are changing within Calgary about the flagship summer event. But Prof. Brownsey said it's impossible to know what average public opinion is - only that the Stampede is an economically and politically vital event for the city.

"A number of people avoid it, a number of people find it anachronistic, but it generates an enormous amount of revenue," he said. "They don't have a voice, but I would argue there is a large percentage of the community that really wants little or nothing to do with the Stampede."

There's an element of regionalism to the debate. Last year's VHS ad was also rebuffed by the Calgary Sun, which wrote in an editorial that "we turfed it because we are proud Calgarians and we don't need outsiders telling us how to run our rodeo." The VHS didn't try again this year.

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