Among the more gruesome news of the last few days was the disturbing revelation that an employee of a Whistler-based dog-sledding outfit had slaughtered nearly 100 dogs that company felt were no longer needed. While expecting a post-Olympics boom in tourism, the British Columbia-based company experienced instead the torpor of economic malaise still plaguing travel-related industries across the globe. The killing of the dogs was allegedly an attempt to cull down the company's pack down from 300 that it felt it no longer needed back in April. The story recently came to light because of a worker's compensation claim for PTSD made by the employee who carried out the executions over two days last spring.
The details that have emerged from Canada, like many other animal-cruelty related stories, have all the ghastly workings of a horror movie. We'll spare you the gory details that are being roundly circulated on the web here, but a few blogs out had the courage to look into the deeper issues surrounding such a disturbing event. Is keeping dogs for physical sport cruelty by itself? Or does it inspire it? What happens to work animals--horses, mules, dogs, etc--when the businesses that use them can no longer afford their upkeep? And how should we bring this in line with the realization that the majority of animal slaughter is a result commercial food production? How and when is it okay to kill an animal, if ever? The web was curiously devoid of real perspectives on the issue, but we found a few and compiled them here.
- Cruelty Inherent In Dog-Sledding, suggests Marcie Moriarty, head of the BC SPCA cruelty investigations division, as quoted in the Vancouver Sun. "There is a problem with the sled dog industry in general. People see these 20 sled dogs, an idyllic setting with snow in the background and think how great. But what they don’t see is the 200 dogs tethered and sleeping out back, chained to a barrel."
- Killing, Too "The outdoor adventure company said that going forward all euthanizations will be conducted in a vet's office," reports Ben Popken at the Consumerist. Yet clearly the euthanizations will still be taking place.
- Not True, says dog sled tour operator Tim Tedford quoted in The Toronto Star. "I have to be very clear on this: That behaviour doesn't sound like a real musher," he tells them ... Most mushers love their dogs. That sounds more like an accountant to me. Most mushers would starve themselves before they'd ever neglect their dogs."
- This Isn't Simply About Cruelty, writes Craig Mcinnes at the Vancouver Sun.
Personally, I’m sickened by the description of the scene, but I’m not persuaded that this is a simple case of animal cruelty, cruel though it clearly was. This isn’t about a rogue individual with no regard for animals. It is also the story of how we use animals in our society and what we do with them when they are no longer useful. These were working dogs, bred and kept for the same reason farmers keep livestock. They were not raised to be loyal companions, they were part of a business.
- Is It Ever Okay to Kill an Animal? Wonders Joanna Zelmann at the Huffington Post.
These 100 dogs were used for human entertainment, and were then murdered when humans were no longer entertained by them. While this story is horrific, similar events happen regularly--many race horses are slaughtered once past their prime, and up to 4 million pets are killed in shelters each year, often due to bored or unprepared owners abandoning them. As for the inhumane slaughter of these dogs, farm animals are frequently tortured and killed for human consumption. The murder of these 100 dogs is not unique, and animal slaughter is often performed in the name of human interests.
- Act Of Senseless Brutality believes Ron Judd at the Seattle Times, for whom the details of the case are particularly troubling. "It's horrific. You don't have to be a dog lover to be horrified by an account of a man slaughtering 70 to 100 defenseless dogs with a gun and a knife--within sight of other dogs waiting their turn, and panicking."
- Employee's Life Ruined, reports Bob Mackin at Canoe.ca while speculating on the identity of the person responsible for the slaughter.