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Sled dogs always at risk

Following the revelations in February about the horrific slaughter of 56 sled dogs in Whistler B.C., various defenders of the sled dog industry insisted that it was an “isolated incident’ and that the industry’s reputation should not be tarnished by the actions of one “bad apple.”

While the Whistler massacre may be an extreme example, there are certainly other instances in which dogs have been put in danger because of the failures of sled dog operators.

Most recently, 37 sled dog were left homeless when an operator in Quebec went out of business.  A former employee tried to care for them but ended up living in a tent in the woods with the dogs tied to surrounding trees.  Animal welfare groups are now trying to find homes for the dogs.

In 2009, also in Quebec, nearly 100 malnourished sled dogs, some blind and many pregnant, were seized by the SPCA from a sled dog business in financial difficulty.

In the same year, about 100 starving sled dogs were seized from an operator in Colorado.  Eight dogs were found dead.

Back in B.C., 34 badly-neglected huskies were seized from a sled dog business in Tumbler Ridge in 2008.

Those are just the incidents that get reported.  Who knows what happens at the many sled dog operations in isolated rural locations that are rarely subjected to scrutiny?

These cases support the Vancouver Humane Society’s contention that whenever a business depends on exploiting animals for profit, those animals will be put at risk.  When equipment is obsolete it can be sold or dumped.  When employees are no longer needed they can, at worst, be laid-off.  When animals are surplus to requirements they become commodities with no rights, leaving them vulnerable to methods of disposal that are at the whim of business owners.

That’s why VHS called for a ban on sled dog operations following the Whistler massacre.  The B.C. government rejected that option and instead imposed greater legal penalties for animal cruelty in the province.  It also established a “working group” to produce a new “standard of care” for sled dogs in B.C.  VHS is urging the working group to at least recommend a ban on the tethering of sled dogs for long periods and take other measures to protect their welfare.  VHS’s full submission to the working group can be seen here.

The sled dog working group is due to report its recommendations to the Minister of Agriculture on September 7th.  VHS, and, no doubt, the public, await the report with interest.

 

 

 

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Smart pigs amaze us but we eat them anyway

It’s common to hear North American animal lovers express their horror at cultures that find eating dogs or cats acceptable.  And, indeed, it is repulsive to see these sensitive, intelligent animals abused and raised for slaughter.

But two recent stories in the news highlight a double standard in attitudes about animals killed for food – at least for those who eat meat.

Media in the United Kingdom and around the world have been raving about the accomplishments of Louie the pig, who has amazed and amused the British public by learning how to compete in dog agility competitions.  Louie has demonstrated intelligence and trainability on a par with his canine friends.

Meanwhile, two Dutch pigs called Rudi and Felix, are making a claim to fame for their therapy work in seniors’ homes – a role also usually associated with service dogs.  Again, media have lapped up the heartwarming story of clever and gentle pigs showing off their talent.

Of course, the intelligence of pigs has been well-established in scientific studies, and, like other animals, they can feel pain and suffer.

Yet pigs endure some of the worst treatment of animals raised for food. Hog barns house up to 5,000 pigs in crowded pens. Stress from overcrowding creates aggression and boredom, so most pigs have their tails cut off to prevent tail-biting.  Breeding sows are confined for almost their entire reproductive lives in stalls that are just slightly bigger than the sows themselves. They eat, sleep, and defecate in the same space; their manure falls through slatted floors to a cesspool beneath.

So the next time you hear someone who loves bacon telling you how appalled they are about dogs being eaten in Korea, remind them of how we abuse, slaughter and eat intelligent, sensitive pigs by the million right here at home.