KMART Australia yesterday distanced itself from the Xstrata Mount Isa Rodeo furore which has erupted after claims of brutality and cruelty by animal welfare activist, Animals Australia (AA).
AA's web site claims it lobbied Kmart by highlighting inappropriate treatment of animals at the rodeo, and convinced the shopping giant to withdraw its sponsorship for the 2012 event.
Yesterday callers to The North West Star and Radio ABC included rodeo riders, horse owners, Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady, and the Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson, with the vast majority supporting rodeo practices.
However, Kmart's national corporate affairs general manager Tracie Walker said the AA inference was not the case.
She said Kmart had only ever planned to sponsor the Xstrata Mount Isa Rodeo for one year (2011) "for a very small amount", and decided to look for other opportunities of sponsorship in the region that would best meet its demographics in an already comprehensive sponsorship list.
"Kmart has been supporting the local Mount Isa community for more than 37 years," she said.
"Our minor sponsorship of the Mount Isa Rodeo was only ever planned for one year being 2011."
It is believed AA has apologised to Kmart for inferring, on its web site, that the company was influenced by AA's anti-cruelty lobbying.
Ms Walker said: "Each year we look for opportunities to support organisations, charities and local groups to ensure we help as many people as possible.
"Just this past financial year Kmart has supported local primary schools, local award nights, breast cancer fund raising, Ronald McDonald House, softball associations, youth holiday programs, Girls Night In, annual Christmas fairs, netball associations, Bush Kids Mount Isa plus hundreds more.
"Kmart Mount Isa also has significant sponsorships in the local area such as Variety the Children's Charity - Bikes for Kids Program - and the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal which has seen thousands of gifts collected for local families doing it tough at Christmas time."
She said Kmart employed more than 80 locals, and was also a major sponsor of the Salvation Army.
Its parent company Wesfarmers spends tens of millions of dollars in rural and regional Queensland each year, she said.
"Kmart ... looks forward to supporting future (Mount Isa) community initiatives that help mum and her family in times of need."
Lisa Chalk, communications director for Animals Australia said Kmart was kept informed throughout the lobbying process.
"It is standard practice for Animals Australia to inform our supporter base about decisions from governments or companies that relate to the interests of animals.
"We certainly advised Kmart that we would be doing this."
Ms Chalk said AA's investigators have monitored rodeos, including Mount Isa for many years.
"It was lobbying by Animals Australia and RSPCA Queensland that resulted in wild horse races being withdrawn at the Mount Isa rodeo.
"There are many events such as barrel racing that showcase true horsemanship without causing animals fear and distress."