Context: Both copper and betanin have been implicated as having significant bioactivity against ischemic damage in a variety of experimental and clinical settings. The aim of this study is to investigate whether betanin and copper have any protective effect on spinal cord in an ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) model in rats. Design: Spraque-Dawley rats were used in four groups: Sham group (n = 7), control group (laparotomy and cross-clamping of aorta, n = 7), betanin treatment group (dosage of 100 mg/kg of betanin administered intraperitoneally (i.p.) 60 min before laparotomy, n = 7), copper sulfate treatment group (administered copper sulfate i.p. at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg/day for 7 days before laparotomy, n = 7). Malondialdehyde (MDA), glutathione (GSH) levels, myeloperoxidase (MPO) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity were measured. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) dUTP Nick-End Labeling (TUNEL) assay was also performed to evaluate apoptosis. Setting: Kafkas University, Faculty of Medicine, Kars, Turkey. Results: I/R injury was successfully demonstrated with the surgical model. Betanin and copper treatment significantly decreased MDA levels, MPO activity and the number of apoptotic cells in the spinal cord. Betanin and copper treatment significantly increased GSH levels. Copper treatment significantly increased SOD activity, whereas betanin was not as effective. Apoptotic cells were significantly decreased in both treatment groups. Conclusion: I/R injury of the spinal cord can be successfully demonstrated by aortic clamping in this surgical model. Betanin/Copper sulphate has ameliorative effects against operative I/R injury. Low toxicity of those agents makes them ideal targets for clinical research for this purpose.