Calf roping is one of the few rodeo sports where I can acknowledge peoples concerns of it being cruel.
The problem is that in a rodeo setting speed is added which is dangerous to the calf. Obviously it important when doctoring and working with calves on a ranch, but at such high speeds it's probably my least favorite rodeo event.
It is very similar to how actual ranch hands will handle a calf that needs doctoring. The ropers are actually very good about trying not to hurt the calves. They don't want the horse to stop hard enough to jerk the calf off it's feet because that makes their times longer. Often times, if the horse stops too hard, they will put sliding plates on them to give a bit of buffer.